TJ’s Gym Weekly News 10/05/2018



Coach Anthony is super excited about the Rodeo! Are you?


Message from TJ:

Why Stress Will Kill You...I Think.

Funny story. I couldn't figure out what the hell to write about this week. Yes, I had some broad ideas, but I typically like to write as though I'm standing in front of a class performing one of my "homilies," which is how one of our members describes it.

This week, the four-hour window for writing which I had scheduled in my calendar turned into a bunch of nothing. I even went to my old standby defense-against-writers-block strategy and started doing projects: painting, spackling, barbell maintenance, digging holes. Usually this works; the uptick in small accomplishments bursts the damn, and I'm ready to enthrall all of you with my brilliant prose (sarcasm).

Not this time. Four holes repaired and a wall painted, and I had still had zero clue what to write.

This stressed the hell out of me. I've done a great job of creating a schedule that usually works well, but it's full. Like so many of you, I don't have time for curveballs, especially ones that bounce in the dirt, pop up, and hit me in the eye.

I talked about this stress with my classes, and wouldn't you know it, a good buddy came to my rescue.

He told me that he got his cholesterol checked exactly a year ago. It was through the roof. He's in pretty good shape, but this was a problem. He demanded that his physician put him on statins to get this under control. He didn't have time to make any changes to his lifestyle. He just knew that he needed to keep keeping on for his family, and he figured he'd deal with the other stuff later. His doc told him to wait a minute. High cholesterol for a year wasn't going to kill him. She told him to wait a year and see what it looks like then.

This buddy happened to be going through one hell of a year. One of his parents was dying all year, and the stress of what that meant emotionally and logistically was a nightmare. When the end came about six months ago, as crushing as it was, there was also some relief. Life slowly got back to normal, as it usually does. He didn't do anything differently in the last year. He didn't drink more or less. He didn't change his diet. He didn't sleep or exercise more or less. He told me that, outside of his father's death, he'd had the exact same year as the year before.

Last week, he went back in for his annual exam. His cholesterol dropped 90 points. That's unbelievable.

He literally went from being in the deadly range to the normal range, simply because of stress reduction.

That story jumpstarted my brain.

How does "stress" work?

I understand that it's bad for us, but I wasn't interested in what the outcome of bad stress is. I already know that. I wanted to know how it happens. There is stress that is good for us and stress that is bad for us. How do we separate the two?

Nassim Taleb wrote a book called AntiFragile, which is the concept that a group of stressors can cause positive responses. We know that putting our muscles under a certain type of stress benefits our muscles and bones, but too much of that kind of stress will do harm.

How the hell does stress cause cholesterol to rise and fall?

Chronic stress is not good. Finances, bad relationships, or any other long-term stress takes a toll on the body. Through a series of messages, the brain releases Cortisol to deal with stressful events. If the stress is decades long (like being a Cleveland Indians fan) Cortisol is built up at a rate the brain can't handle. The brain's response is to grow certain parts of the brain while shrinking others. This leads to many different side effects like loss of memory or poor social interaction. Other hormones are affected as well, and eventually the microbiomes of the gut start to react.

Back to the bugs.

Your body creates cholesterol, and you consume cholesterol. Your cholesterol measures depend on your personal relationship with these bugs. They are the keepers of the gate. They decide how much, when, why, and how you will react towards almost everything related to your cardio/pulmonary system.

Your genetics decide how you will react. The 110-year-old who smokes and drinks whiskey every day may have died at 55 he'd eaten sugar every day. But he probably didn't.

My body hates beer. My brain loves beer. This is my reckoning. We all have one. Your job is to research your genetics, which is not hard to do, and then have a good conversation with yourself over the course of a year or so. Then, use the data and that quality conversation to make some changes for the better.

Just don't ignore the obvious, whatever you do.

I'm happy to talk more if you'd like.