10 Ways to Build Stress Tolerance as a Mother Runner

by | Jul 10, 2024

Running can be an incredible stress reliever, but for many female runners, balancing training with the demands of everyday life can sometimes feel like an uphill battle. Whether you’re preparing for a race, juggling family responsibilities, or managing work, building stress tolerance and resiliency is key to supporting running goals without being sidelined by injury, illness, DNF’s, or missed PRs.

What is Stress Tolerance?

First, let’s talk about the difference between stress tolerance and stress resiliency

Stress tolerance is the load your body can handle before it gets activated. It’s how much you can take on while maintaining a parasympathetic state.

Stress resilience is how well you can bounce back and recover from an activated stress state. Do you return to a parasympathetic state easily and quickly? Or do you stay activated for a while afterward?

The good news is that the actions you can take to increase both stress tolerance and stress resilience are similar. As you increase your tolerance to handle stressful situations and triggers, you build up your toolbox of things you can also use to help recover after a stressful event.

How to Build Stress Tolerance

Here’s how you can build stress tolerance and resiliency as a busy mom and runner.

1. Fuel Your Body Properly

Eating enough food and foods that support blood sugar balance and reducing inflammation are important to fueling your runs and supporting overall health. Pay attention to your nutrient intake, ensuring you’re getting enough protein, healthy fats, colorful fibers and whole food carbohydrates.

Tip: Incorporate foods rich in omega-3 fatty acids, like salmon or chia seeds, which can help reduce inflammation and improve mood.

2. Stay Hydrated

Proper hydration is essential for both physical performance and stress management. Dehydration can exacerbate feelings of stress and fatigue as cells get depleted and energy production slows down.

Tip: Carry a water bottle with you and aim to drink at least 8 cups of water with electrolytes a day, more if you’re running long distances.

3. Prioritize Rest and Recovery

Rest and recovery are crucial for building stress resiliency. Adequate sleep, rest days, and incorporating recovery techniques like foam rolling or stretching can help your body repair and prepare for the next workout.

Carving out time for self-care activities that fill you up and restore your energy are also important. Taking time for yourself helps recharge your batteries and equips you to handle stress more effectively.

Tip: Craft a morning and evening routine that sets your circadian rhythm, nervous system, and stress tolerance for the day. It doesn’t need to be a complicated, hours long routine. Even 10 minutes of movement, breathwork, meditation, or journaling at a set time when you wake up and before bed can make a big impact.

4. Check Your Gut

Having to find a bathroom in the middle of every run is both a physical stress on the body and a mental stress from having to worry about where all the bathrooms are and if you’ll need one.

Even if you don’t have running-induced GI issues, your ability to handle stress only works as well as the level of the messages that are being told to your brain from your body. This means any blood sugar imbalances, gut pathogens, toxins, that fuel inflammation need to be addressed. An inflamed gut is an inflamed brain. And an inflamed brain cannot handle the work needed to increase stress tolerance.

Tip: Meal hygiene and blood sugar balanced meals go a long way to support optimal gut health and a healthy microbiome. Sitting down at meals, chewing food thoroughly, and eating without distractions is an easy way to support stress levels and digestion.

5. Set Realistic Goals

Setting realistic and achievable goals can keep you motivated and reduce stress. Break your larger goals into smaller, manageable steps and celebrate your progress along the way.

Tip: Use a running journal to track your goals, progress, and how you feel during and after each run. A great one that also has space to set daily intentions, affirmations, and gratitude is the Run My Life journal and planner.

6. Explore Stress-Relief Techniques

Incorporate stress-relief techniques such as yoga, meditation, or deep breathing exercises into your routine. These practices can help you manage stress more effectively.

Tip: Dedicate at least 10 minutes each day to a stress-relief practice that resonates with you. For a list of ideas that you can do in 10 minutes or less, download my nervous system regulating tools guide here.

7. Connect with a Supportive Community

Joining a running group or finding a running buddy can provide motivation and emotional support. Sharing experiences and challenges with others who understand can significantly reduce stress.

Tip: Look for local running clubs or online communities where you can connect with other mother runners.

8. Practice Self-Compassion

It’s essential to be kind to yourself, especially on days when things don’t go as planned. Practice self-compassion by acknowledging your efforts and recognizing that it’s okay to have setbacks.

Tip: Use positive affirmations or mantras to encourage yourself during tough runs or challenging times.

9. Incorporate Strength Training

Strength training can enhance your running performance and help prevent injuries. Utilizing intentional progressive overload training that triggers cortisol activation at a slower rate than running can help to increase tolerance and stress load. It also boosts your overall physical and mental resilience.

Tip: Include progressive overload strength training in your routine 2-3 times a week.

10. Embrace Mindful Movement

Mindful movement involves paying attention to your body, breath, and surroundings during your run or workout. It can help you stay present, manage stress better and increase enjoyment of your activity. It involves awareness of the current moment without judgment.

Tip: Start your day or your run with a few minutes of deep breathing or a short meditation to set a mindful intention.

Building stress resiliency is an ongoing process that requires attention and care. By incorporating these tips into your routine, you can enhance your ability to manage stress and continue to enjoy the many benefits of running. Remember, it’s not just about running harder or faster, but also about running smarter and taking care of your whole self.

Further Resources on Stress Tolerance

Hi, I’m Stephanie! I help everyday active women nourish their goals and fuel their lives.

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