Is Theater Disrupting my Workout Routine?

I have been acting since I was very young. During my high school and college theater experience I have attempted to balance the demands of putting up a show, keeping up with my school work, and keeping myself physically fit. Over the years I have noticed that whenever I am involved in a show, particularly if I have a role that requires me to be particularly involved, I am able to keep myself relatively healthy throughout the rehearsal process and then as soon as the last performance is finished I find myself sick, tired, and simply unable to return to my previous workout routine or sleep pattern. This has been a consistent physiological response to nearly every performance. In fact, I just finished performing in Romeo and Juliet and am now tired and sick. It is an odd response. But I have often wondered if the stress period in which I am balancing theater, school, other extracurricular activities, and sleep, is so high stress that my body goes into overdrive only to crash after the play is over.

My high school director referred to this phenomenon as “parasympathetic rebound.” As my director understood it, during the performance process the stress was enough to cause the body to heighten immune function and energy and then as soon as the show finished the body “relaxed” sending the immune system and the actor’s energy into a nose-dive.

I have yet to be able to find much to support this explanation. However, I would like to find a way to prevent it as I can be sure that every time I finish a show I will become ill and lethargic thus disrupting my workout routine for as much as a few weeks.

I wonder if anyone else experiences this “parasympathetic rebound” response to long periods of high stress?

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2 Responses to Is Theater Disrupting my Workout Routine?

  1. This same type of thing always happens to me at the end of a semester and during finals week. After the stress from all of the late night studying and the pressure to do well on finals, my immune system crashes as soon as I get home. I basically just embrace the fact that it is going to happen and I don’t really try to combat it with any particular diet or vitamins. I just try to go to bed at a reasonable hour and I make sure that I stay physically active. Thankfully it is never anything serious and I rebound after a couple of restful days back home.

  2. Paleogirl Paleogirl says:

    I have experienced the same rebound many times. As a singer (I’m in the Sirens), it usually happens after big concerts; it happened right after the concert this December. It also happens after big exams. What I have figured out for myself, however, is that it may actually be a result of a change in fitness and diet before and after large and important events like this. When I am preparing for a concert, I know the LAST thing I can have happen is to get sick- it’s a death sentence for any performer as you know. So I amp up vitamin C, eat very well, hydrate very well, and for the most part am active enough to keep my body in shape. When I finish, however, I am usually so happy it is over that I celebrate with ice cream and relaxing (no exercise), which makes my body go into a sort of “unhealthy shock”, where it does not know how to handle the unhealthy choices I have suddenly made and launches me into sickness. In the future, I will try amping up on healthy vitamins, foods, and habits to see if it combats this rebound effect. This is just a hypothesis though, so it is really up to you to discover what works for you!

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