When people set health goals they leave usually leave out the two most important aspects of the plan, rest and recovery. It seems everywhere you look you see people wearing the “badge of honor” of lack of sleep. We are doing our bodies an immense amount of damage when we don’t rest and don’t take time to properly recover. I know, I have been there. As a personal trainer and group fitness instructor, my body has been through the ringer. I have been doing a lot of studying on rest and recovery. I worked 60 hour weeks and still did my own training on top of caring for my family. It took it’s toll on me physically. Here is what I learned about rest and recovery.
You must set sleep goals. Sleep is an afterthought for most. I have even heard people say, “I’ll sleep when I die”. Yikes!! For our bodies and minds to run properly we need approx. 7-9 hours of sleep each night. I know, you are laughing right now! This can be done. What are your sleep habits, do you know your starting point? There are lots of great tools on the market through wearable to tell you help you evaluate how long you are sleeping and how well you are sleeping.
Getting rest will not only help you be more productive but it will help you be truly present, at work and for your loved ones. There will be times when you have to turn down opportunities to get the rest your body requires. By the way, you can never make up your sleep debt, it doesn’t work that way. You can’t get 5 hours 5 days a week and sleep in on the weekends and think it will make up for the lack of sleep during the week.
Why Rest and Recovery are Important?
Here is what is at stake if you don’t rest. Your risk of developing diabetes or heart disease does up with decreased rest time. Lack of sleep causes our nutrition to be off track. When you are tired you not only make poor food choices but you also have trouble properly metabolizing your food. Your response time is also decreased with lack of proper rest. Studies have shown sleep deprivation can cause reaction times nearly double the legal alcohol blood level!! It’s crazy to think you can be worse than a drunk person but that is a scientific fact.
Here a few things you can do to help you start the road to making rest a priority in your life:
- Stay away from caffeine 5 to 10 hours before bedtime! Yes, that means you should not be drinking coffee all day or pre workout after work before you head to the gym. Caffeine, as we all know is a stimulant. It will keep you up. You will not need the caffeine fix if you get the proper rest.
- Limit your screen 1 hour before bed. You can set an alarm to remind you to shut down your devices and turn off your tv as your prepare your body for rest. The blue light waves on your tv and electronics will make your body think it’s daytime. Once you shut these down your circadian clock in your body will be signaled for rest time.
- A dark cold room is the most ideal environment to sleep in. The best temperature is 67 degrees. I know that sounds cold but scientist have proven that it not only creates the proper environment but helps your body burn more calories.
- The last tip is going to send you off the deep end: cut out alcohol before bed. I know you think that glass of wine is going to help you sleep. It may help you initially when you lay down but once it’s in your system it will cause you to toss and turn. It will disrupt your sleep.
Sleep is recovery. Recovery is about keeping your body in balance. Recovery takes discipline over motivation. You must give your body time to heal and rebuild to accompany the hard work you are putting in at the gym. Since leaving my very demanding fitness job, I have changed my schedule and the way I work out. I spend most of my time on weight lifting, because that’s the most beneficial use of my time. I work out 5 to 6 days a week for 45 min to an hour, I work out 3 weeks on, 1 week off. My body has healed very well over the last 2 years with this formula. Everyone’s body is different and each of us has a different journey. This works for me and for my needs. During my week off I take time to purposefully recover.
Here is what I do:
- I get massages. If you can’t afford them you can always buy a massage chair or chair massage cushion (like this one) for a cheaper option but still effective.
- Do decrease inflammation I take cooler showers. I also go from cold to warm every minute for about 20 min to shock my body and increase the healing time.
- Compression socks are great. If you are sitting watching tv, why not just put on a pair of compression socks and help your body recover too!
- Epsom salt baths can do wonders to heal your body. Fill your tub with nice warm water (not too hot) and sprinkle a cup of regular Epsom salt into the tub and slide right in there for about 20 to 30 min.
- Review your goals. Sometimes we can get bogged down with our own health goals. It’s ok to change your mind, if you’re not happy then change them. If you are having negative thoughts, acknowledge them and move forward. How you deal with your setbacks says a lot about you.
The key to sleep and recovery it to do them. You don’t have to jump in and go crazy right out of the gate. You can start to incorporate some of these into your routine and you will benefit from the discipline of rest and recovery. Once you have tasted the fruits of rest and recovery you will not go back. Your body will thank you. Rest and recovery is the way to treat yourself!