Alright then, we’ve got all the basics to get you started down the path to being happier, feeling healthier and just overall awesomeness. Now let’s try to make sense of how they all tie together.
In Part I we talked about your training regime and got you some basic exercises to get you moving in the gym. In Part II we talked about the foods to eat and how to make sure you can stay on track for the long term. Part III we started to delve into a topic less thought about in terms of training and fitness, sleep. Sleep is a crucial part that most people think they can white knuckle their way through, but nature always wins. Finally, Part IV we covered another less talked about topic in this realm, stress. It can have quite the effect on you over time.
I’ll tie all 4 together as simply as I can;
Train to build muscle and burn calories -> Eat foods that will nurture your body and goals -> Sleep so you can recover from training and see you can remain mindful -> Despite your best efforts, stressors will present themselves, but you’re prepared for them because you’re taking care of yourself and if it gets to be just a bit too much…-> Train to let some of that stress and aggression out (can you say medball slams?)
Something I want to circle back to here, remember, this is a long term thing. You are trying to get healthy for the rest of your life and as someone recently put it, training for quality of life. This is not a 30 day, 6 week or 90 day plan. This is a 365 x your remaining years plan. Here are some key ways to help you sustain the 4 parts we’ve discussed.
I hope at least one person can find this series helpful, and if that’s the case, I’ll call it a victory. Thanks for taking the time everyone, it’s much appreciated, and until next time Team First XV, go out there and get after it!
OK, we are cruising along here, we’ve got your workout down, you’re educated up on the foods you should be seeing out and the types of habits to form, and you know what the value of sleep is going to be for your training & health. I can’t tell you that this will be the last piece to the puzzle to your new fitness journey, but I can tell you that it’s something you (and everyone else) should consider when it comes to your health and training. This last piece we’ll talk about is stress. Stress comes in all kind of forms, both good and bad. Yes, there’s good kinds of stress, baffling, right? I am going to borrow from a post I did awhile ago about stress here, because it was some of the same stuff I’m going to write about here.
First off, to get right to the crux of what too much stress can do to you, I want to direct you to a study referenced in Robert Sapolsky’s, Why Zebra’s Don’t Get Ulcers. In the study rats, put in different situations, were stressed (shocked). The rats stressed in isolation with nothing to do, developed ulcers. No stress doesn’t cause ulcers directly, but yes it is a root cause. They also stressed 4 or 5 other rats and gave them an outlet of some sort (other rats to socialize with, something to scratch and chew on, etc.). Those rats either developed ulcers at a lower rate or not at all. Simply put, you need a place to ditch all that stress. I advocate for weight lifting, but most exercise will do the trick though.
Many of us don’t really consider ways to relieve out stress until the weekend when we “blow off some steam” and if you read Part III yesterday (hint hint wink wink) then you know that alcohol can really screw with your sleep. Poor sleep-> not well rested-> more stress-> blowings off of the steams again…you get the point, yeah?
In the end, the best way to get rid of this ulcer inducing stress is activity, now if you ask me, picking shit up and putting it back down work pretty well, BUT if that’s not your cup of tea, you have to find something. Food can also effect stress, what it’s doing to your body (hello hormones and chemicals) and how you deal with it. I can tell you first hand, when Spring roles around, and I am butt to elbows with stuff going on, I am in a pretty stressed out state (even if I like the things I’m doing). I’ve had years where I didn’t take care of myself (minimal training for myself, poor diet) and it did not help. The years I stay on top of those things, I am a much happier version of myself, ask the boss, she’ll give it to you straight.
Here’s a few things that I can tell you that will help with this stress thing and no letting it get the best of you.
In summary, stress can be good and stress can be very bad, keep it in check. Use the other 3 things we talked about this week to help you with it. Come back tomorrow where we’ll wrap it up and help make sense of it all. Until then Team First XV, go out there and get after it.
Happy Humpday all and welcome back to this series of post on how get your fitness journey started. To recap what we’ve covered; we have your strength training routine from part 1 and some movements to help you get started. In part 2 we talked about food and a bit about the mindset when you are formulating your eating plan. Those aren’t the only bricks that will form your fitness path though. There’s others that are definitely not talked about enough, but should be. Today we are going to discuss Sleep and Rest. I actually posted on this too long, compiling others work and trying to sum it up, so today I’ll keep it fairly straight forward. Yes, I did borrow some stuff from that post, why fix what isn't broken, right?
As most of you know, or at least won’t be surprised to find out, the U.S. sucks at being healthy and really sucks at getting proper sleep in. Is there a relation between those two facts? I’d bet the house on ‘Yes’. We are averaging less than 6 hours of sleep accross the board, now sometimes this happens, but that’s the thing, it should just be a sometimes thing. Not a every day of your life for the last 10 years thing. OK, sorry, now that I’ve shamed you I’ll try to help you with why and how.
Suffice to say there’s a couple things that contribute to your health when it comes to sleep. Stress is reduced when you have proper sleep, and let’s be real, it seems everyone is in a constant state of stress these days. With that drop in stress the hormones in your body can do their jobs better at regulating your systems. Also, it’s simple math, less time awake means you have less of a chance to consume in calories.
Some of you are maybe saying to yourself, “I only get 5.5 hours of sleep during the week, but I sleep in on weekends”. That my friends, is a dangerous game to play. There are some studies that show that it’s not a terrible method, but here’s the problem. Many of you are probably “sleeping in” because you had a late night, and you still probably only slept for 5-6 hours. Especially those of us that enjoy our adult beverages, that sleep time was 100% garbage sleep, and we’ll get more into that in a minute.
Here’s 3 steps to nudge you in the direction of getting a more restful sleep
1. Watch the alcohol and caffeine intake- Yes, I drink my share of both, but we have to be smart about it. Drinking coffee like it’s going out of style and/or going on a bender every other night has a host of health problems outside of impacting our sleep. Caffeine after 12 PM (some say 2, I say 12 to be safe) is going to keep that brain ticking way longer than you want it to. Alcohol needs to process 100% before you can actually get into a deep sleep, so when you’re slugging them back until 3 AM, wave bye-bye to getting any actual sleep (even if you do shut your eyes for an extended period). Keep it to 1 or 2 drinks if you’re planning on getting some good sleep that night.
2. Get into as much of a bedtime routine as you can- Not only am I talking about getting your body into a routine in terms of what time it’s going to sleep and waking up, but also what you do shortly before and shortly after. Start shutting down 30 minutes before, get the lights down (screens included). If you have something on your mind that’s going to bug you like hell until you do it, write it all down on a piece of paper, then you’ll get it out of your mind. When you wake up, don’t just lay there hitting the snooze button, get up! There’s something about “sleep inertia” or a term similar, that basically says laying back down only makes you more tired, so just get the heck up and start the day.
3. Go to bed earlier- Why in the heck people are into this whole, staying awake late every night, even though I was tired 2 hours ago, type of thing is beyond me. When you are tired your body is trying to tell you something, so don’t fight it, that something is…TIME TO SLEEP! I’ve heard this on probably 10-12 different occasions in my time as a coach, many sleep experts out there believe that because of the way our bodies natural rhythm works, every hour slept before midnight is worth two after. I’m pretty sure there’s not a ton of research (or a way to measure it even) out there, but it seems to make sense, and works from my perspective at least.
Now then, next time you are wondering why you are tired and need to rely on an IV of caffeine to get yourself through your day, maybe consider the stuff I talked about here today. Get that magic 7-9 hours of sleep more often (without extra chemicals ticking through your head) and you’ll start to notice things being less groggy. Tune in tomorrow where we talk about something closely related to this, stress, hooray! Until next time Team First XV, go out there and get after it.
Jarrod Dyke, CSCS