I am sure you have been told before how important it is to get enough sleep and how important rest is when our body adapts and grows.
But for some reason, this isn’t enough to make you really prioritise your sleep and recovery.
Well, it certainly wasn’t for me. During the first few years of opening the gym, I wasn’t getting enough sleep or taking enough time to rest and recover.
I knew that sleep and recovery were vital to my health, performance, and body composition, but there never seemed to be enough hours in the day. There was always something that had to be done for work or an extra training session that I had squeeze in.
I thought that I could get by without getting enough sleep and rest…..and I could.
I did and I was doing great, but only when I really started prioritising my sleep and recovery did I break the 10% body fat barrier and really kick things on to the next levels.
I think I was surviving and now I am thriving.
Today I want to share with you what helped me do this.
Our body is like a bucket.
Let me start with this simple diagram below to show you how our body works:
Image source: https://jamesclear.com/cumulative-stress
Our body is like a bucket:
Stress from training, work, and psychological stress all drain our energy levels or empty our bucket.
We fill our bucket through getting better sleep, eating better, and making time for recovery.
The scientific term for this is allostatic load. Allostatic load is defined as the “wear and tear on the body” that accumulates as an individual is exposed to repeated chronic stress.
If we want to look, feel and perform at our best we have to fill our bucket through prioritising our:
We also have to manage our bucket through:
Training intelligentlyWorking intelligentlyEating betterManaging stress
Filling Our Bucket - How do we do this?
Sleep is just as important as nutrition and exercise when it comes to improving our health, performance, and body composition.
There is a strong body of research that shows that sleep affects our:
AppetiteCravingsCarbohydrate toleranceInflammationHormonesThyroidMuscle massBody fat
For example, if you want to build more muscle and get leaner getting 7-8 hours of quality sleep per night will help you achieve this. When you are getting enough sleep you will have a better tolerance for carbohydrates, fewer cravings, more energy to train, and better hormonal health to build muscle and burn fat.
Sleep debt is cumulative, this means that for every consecutive night of sleep that you build up the larger the sleep debt you are amassing. We all know what that feels like, feeling wrecked on Thursday and Friday and then sleeping for 12 hours straight on a Saturday to feel normal again. The good news is that sleep debt can be repaid, so if you miss an hour two (it happens), just make an effort to get to bed earlier the next night, before if becomes an issue.
If you have ever tried harder to get to sleep, you will know that it doesn’t work. We can’t control our sleep, but we can control our behaviours that lead to sleep. I call these behaviours our bedtime routine. When we were children we had a bedtime routine that helped us get a great night sleep. The problem is that when we become adults we are the ones in control of our bedtime routine.
If you want to look, feel, and perform at your best…..then you have to take control of your bedtime routine.
This is how you take control of your bedtime routine:
Set a scheduled bedtime - allow yourself enough time to get 7-8 hours of sleep before you must wake.
Avoid excessive alcohol and caffeine – both substances negatively impact your body’s ability to get into deep restorative sleep. Think about how you feel when you wake with a hangover.
Get off the phone/TV/computer – the blue light from your electronics impede the production of melatonin, which will delay your ability to fall asleep and negatively impact your sleep quality when you do fall asleep. Also when has an urgent work email or scrolling through social media helped you sleep?
Write a to-do list or brain dump before bed – taking a few minutes before bed to get everything out of your head and down onto paper will stop you starring up at the ceiling in bed, thinking about tomorrow. Also having it all down on paper will help you hit the following day running.
Meditate, read, or stretch to de-stress before bed – any form de-stressing will help you progressively relax in order to get a great night’s sleep. Experiment with these three techniques and find something works best for your bedtime routine.
Keep your room tidy – as with anything in life, if you can clear the clutter, you will be more relaxed.
Keep your room cool and dark – making your room as dark as possible will maximise your body's melatonin production. This is the hormone that signals your body that it is time for sleep. Find a sleeping temperature that works best for you. For me, personally, I sleep best in a cold room.
This is very individual, but my definition of recovery would be any time or activity that helps to refill your body's bucket.
This could be:
Foam rolling/static stretching – this will help to decrease muscle tensions and restore range of motion.
Yoga - this will also help to decrease muscle tension and restore range of motion. Also with the added benefit of deep breathing to de-stress.
Meditation – one of the best ways to de-stress is meditating. Research shows that it is incredibly restorative and it lowers blood pressure, stress hormones, and inflammation.
Walking or jogging in nature – this form of active recovery helps to restore range of motion, improves recovery from intense exercise and getting away from the hustle and bustle will help you to de-stress.
Spending time with family and friends – this helps you to relax, enjoy yourself and put everything into perspective. Also, this is the really important stuff, in my opinion, my life is defined by the quality of my relationships.
Having an afternoon on the couch – sometimes it just feels good park yourself up on the couch and take it nice and easy.
Image source: https://theballisround.co.uk/2010/11/26/it-could-never-happen-here-could-it-please/homer-lying-on-couch-c7587_sml/
The most important thing is that you “make time” in your diary for recovery. If you don’t make time for it, you will just be too “busy” to refill your bucket. If this is the case, you will be surviving not thriving.
Thank you for reading, if you are interested in coaching to help develop nutrition & lifestyle habits that help you be at your best, you can email me firstname.lastname@example.org
Find Out More:
Ciaran and his fellow coaches at FFS present corporate talks to help educate people on the nutritional & lifestyle habits that help them to become the strongest version of themselves. To find out more email email@example.com.
About the Author:
Ciaran is the Co-Founder and Director of Performance at FFS.
"I am on a mission to help myself and others become the strongest versions of themselves. To do this I want to help people eat, move, think and recover better." - Ciaran
Email Ciaran at firstname.lastname@example.org