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Leadership: Stress Plus Rest, Equal Success


When watching some of the world’s most amazing athletes compete, you might think that they’re where they’re at today from around-the-clock, non-stop hard work.

According to Brad Stulberg and Steve Magness in their book “Peak Performance: Elevate Your Game, Avoid Burnout, and Thrive with The New Science of Success,” that perception is actually wrong. According to the authors, yes, elite athletes do work hard, but they also rest — a formula anyone can follow to be a higher performer in not just sports, but in work as well.

To illustrate their point, Stulberg and Magness share the story of Deena Kastor, one of the most famous athletes in women’s running, who holds the American marathon record — she ran 26.2 miles in 2 hours and 19 minutes. To achieve this accomplishment, she of course worked extremely hard, logging hundreds of miles and following a precise nutrition program. But Kastor credits her success to her rest days as well.

Kastor told Competitor magazine in 2009: “The leaps and bounds I’ve made over the last several years have come from outside the training environment and how I choose to recover. During a workout you’re breaking down soft tissue and really stressing your body. How you treat yourself in between workouts is where you make gains and acquire the strength to attack the next one.”

According to Stulberg and Magness, this principle is one that both athletes and intellectuals at the top of their fields follow. Whether it’s physical or mental, “stress demands rest, and rest supports stress.”

The authors aren’t saying you should avoid stress at all costs — in fact, stress is absolutely necessary for growth. However, constant stress isn’t, and is in fact counterintuitive to success and can lead to burnout. As a result, stretches of prolonged stress should be followed by periods of rest, so that gains can be achieved.

With the stress of the New Year fast approaching, I thought this was a timely topic for health club operators and owners. Keep this in mind as you grapple with the influx of New Year’s resolutioners and a packed gym. Remember that you and your staff will learn from this stressful time — just be sure to schedule a vacation immediately afterwards.

Rachel Zabonick-Chonko

Rachel Zabonick-Chonko is the editor-in-chief of Club Solutions Magazine. She can be reached at rachel@peakemedia.com.

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