General adaptation syndrome (GAS) is the predictable way the body responds to stress” -Hans Selye (1907-1982)
Nature has many of the answers we as humans are looking for when it comes to stress and how the body reacts. Our bodies go through three different phases when we have applied stress to ourselves. When we look at how animals hunt or get into a fight, there is this biological response that is happening, and the same exact things happen to us. But the difference between animals and humans is they have no other choice to get back to homeostasis to keep living. Humans are always in a state of fight or flight. This is leading to our very own death.
I am going to go over the three phases of the General Adaptation Syndrome (GAS). Studying the GAS will help create a better understanding of what it is our mind and body as a whole response to stress.
“If the human brain were so simple that we could understand it, we would be so simple that we couldn’t” - Emerson M. Pugh
General Adaptation Syndrome Phase 1 - Alarm Phase
As we look at the alarm phase there are 2 sub-phases that we go through: Shock and counter-shock.
Shock: This is the first response that happens when a stress has been applied. This is a very low response that you don’t even realize you are going through. As you see this drops below our normal baseline of homeostasis. This is the body’s reaction to how we will cope with the stress that we are about to go through. Once we have realized what is happening then we move into the next sub-phase that you see start to rise towards our normal baseline.
Counter-Shock: This starts as soon as the system recognizes the stressor, and we are not able to process the information or the deeper resources that will help us deal with the stressor. This is where the Sympathetic Nervous System (also known as “Fight or Flight Mode”) kicks in. These reactions are pretty noticeable to humans. This is that feeling of anxiousness, heart starts to race, we start to breath heavy, and we release a number of different hormones that are helping produce energy to be able to sustain what we are able to go through.
As a SOFLETE Athlete, we routinely go through the Alarm Phase but you don’t notice it as much because of how we have approached this with how we structure our training sessions. From our 5-10 min easy cyclic warm up, with nasal breathing only, into some sort of movement prep for the day, that creates the right neurological / biological response that lets us handle the current phase we are in better, which also helps prepare our system for the next phase.
“Homeostasis, from the Greek words for "same" and "steady," refers to any process that living things use to actively maintain fairly stable conditions necessary for survival. The term was coined in 1930 by the physician Walter Cannon.
General Adaptation Syndrome Phase 2 - Resistance Phase
Once our body has initialize the stressor, we now are able to create a level of alertness that will help fight and adapt to the stress that is being inflicted. At the same time the body wants to keep a level of homeostasis, because this is where we can benefit from all the neurological / biological resources.
The Resistance Phase is where cortisol levels start to increase so that the stored energy we have deep-in the body is released to help adapt to the stressor, and where you see people are able to do superhuman things, like run faster or lift heavier things. We don’t get stronger or better during this phase because the system is working so hard to produce more cortisol, which in turn starts to decrease our amino acids and glucose stores. As we start to deplete this resource it will dedicate whether we go into a recovery or exhaustion phase next.
Our job as SOFLETE Coaches is to understand that we can’t avoid increases in cortisol levels during this time, but we can control how much energy is expedited during the time of training. We are able to implement recovery protocols to get you out of the resistance phase faster and into the next phase.
“Adopting the right attitude can convert a negative stress into a positive one” - Dr. Hans Selye
General Adaption Syndrome Phase 3 - Recovery / Exhaustion
As we look to get out of the resistance phase, the body has used up a number of resources that are needed to keep itself at such a high state of resistances. As we get into the third phase, there are two things that can happen depending on the the intensity and duration of the stress that you’ve inflicted on yourself.
Recovery: A return to a normal state of health, mind, or strength. To be able to get into a recovery state we must have some energy left over to help prompt the recovery phase.
Exhaustion: A state of extreme physical or mental fatigue. Being in an exhaustion state means we have depleted all our energy. We have ended up inflicting too much stimulus and stress on our body, and we are now not able to create the adaption needed to recover and be ready for the next stressor that is to come.
With how we lay out the training programs for the different teams we take into account that we must keep your body always in a recovery phase after the resistance phase due to not just the next training day’s activities but we also know you’re dealing with a highly stressful job outside of the gym as well.
Our goal isn't to drive you into exhaustion but to help you adapt to each training session to help you become stronger, faster, and smarter humans.
We do understand that we must also have some type of overload in the training program. This overload is planned, and we can usually expect a decrease in training. This is only for a short period of time, and after that overload we follow it up with a de-load week consisting of lower intensity and volume training. If you're in an overload phase for too long it will lead to overtraining. Overtraining ends up creating long term negative affects to training and lack of adaption occurs, which cause problems internally and take much longer to recover from.
“Stress is the spice of Life.” - Dr. Hans Selye
At the end of the day, our bodies are meant for stress; that is how our bodies are wired to keep growing. When it comes to training, creating a systematic approach will lead to proper adaptations and growth with strong recovery.