Let's Talk About Stress

Your body is the ultimate shape-shifter, constantly changing itself to best fit its environment. At any given time, you have the exciting ability to determine the type of form that your body takes. Short of morphing into a 7-story tall robot, your body is a real-life Transformer.

But HOW does your body change, exactly? To understand, we first have to get on the same page about the underlying trigger. Your body responds to a variety of factors that we classify as STRESS. In this case, we're talking about more than mental stresses like "I'm late for work and stuck in traffic....AHHH!", although they certainly count. Think about relaxing on a beach sunbathing, or enjoying a professional massage. These two activities may be soothing rest and relaxation, but they illustrate an important point about Stress.


Stress, biologically speaking, is any activity or event - "positive" or "negative" - that alters the body. In the case of sunbathing, the sun's rays create a stress that causes skin to darken. During a massage, the pressure from the massage therapist's hands (and sometimes elbows and knees!) creates a stress that changes the pliability of your muscle tissue. In this sense, your body is perpetually experiencing changes - every moment of every day - in response to whatever is happening.


Stresses and your body's responses to those stresses are THE KEY to your fitness. Identifying the stresses that bring about your desired changes, and then implementing them consistently, gets results. Period.

Let's look at lifting weights, a perfect example of good stress. Consistent and progressive (meaning the workouts always stay hard) strength training will do the following to your body:

  • Increase muscle strength and size (always good for men AND women!)
  • Increase bone density
  • Decrease body fat
  • Increase overall energy level

Sounds pretty good, right?

Bad Stress

By identifying stresses that create changes we do NOT want, like sluggishness, illness, excess bodyfat, etc., you can work towards eliminating them and further changing your body for the better. What is a common "negative" stress that nearly everyone in our society does WAY too much?


This guy may be smiling, but his skeleton is not.

What are some bodily changes that happen from too much sitting?

  • Increased tightness of the muscles in the front of the hip
  • Posture and movement dysfunction -- big time
  • Atrophy and loss of strength in the core and rear hip musculature (weak abs, weak and flat butt)
  • Chronic back and shoulder pain

Think of your body's overall condition as the combination of all the stresses ("good" and "bad") in your life. If you want to change your body for the better, start thinking about which stresses are getting you there and which are holding you back. Need help? Qualified professionals can help assess your stresses and chart the path forward.

So get stressed out - in a GOOD way!


Max Berkheimer, Certified Personal Trainer, True Fitness and Nutrition

About the Author:

Max's passion for fitness began as a young athlete, when he realized that extra work in the gym yielded better results on the playing field. After graduating from James Madison University, he took his interests to the next level, enrolling in and graduating from the National Personal Training Institute. Max has been both a student and practitioner of effective fitness ever since, honing his skills with clients at Fitness First and Washington Sports Club, and leading youth sports programs with Fairfax County Public Schools, before joining the team at True Fitness and Nutrition. Max spends his free time with his wife, Carly, and his two cats, Cannoli & Biscotti. He also enjoys playing sports, playing cards, and learning other languages.


A fit & healthy body is created with each decision we make, every day. Appropriate attention to strength, mobility, nutrition, and aerobic capacity will set the foundation for change. My job is to provide the information and guidance to help clients maximize each of the above components. Furthermore, I believe that a healthy life involves positive relationships and having fun. I strive to bring both this spirit and the science of true fitness to every session.


  • Youth athletics and group instruction
  • Sport-specific training for youth and adult athletes
  • Barbell training for maximizing strength, power, and physique
  • Program design for total body composition
  • Sound nutrition guidance for body fat reduction and healthy lifestyle