Thursday, April 25, 2013

Train. Eat. Sleep. Repeat.

Train. Eat. Sleep. Repeat. Most would agree this is a sound recipe for improving your fitness as an athlete. Add in a dash of variety, family time, stretching, catching up with friends, relaxation and you've got the foundation for longevity and happiness as well. 

Having recently started preparing for my next race in Cairns, I've put time into outlining a solid training plan, eating well and getting myself out the door to do the work. But in the process I've neglected one of the key ingredients: SLEEP

So three weeks in and I'm feeling tired and lethargic, with more frequent self 'pep talks' needed to get myself out and on the road in the morning. Plus my immune system is taking a hiding. Sure, some of this is part-and-parcel of training for a long distance event. But trying to balance work, training, and life in general takes some sound time management skills and this time around for me sleep seems to have been shuffled to the bottom of the priority list. 

As a psychologist I'm working with people every day to help them regain the vitality in their day. One of the first things we talk about is how well they are sleeping. A study revealed that along with tight work deadlines, a bad night's sleep was one of the top two factors that upset people's daily moods. 

Sleep is just as important for athletes. Having more energy helps you to engage in everyday activities - such as exercise (pretty important part of training for an event). I'm sure you've experienced how hard everything seems when you are tired. Just as important, sleep is necessary for your body (and mind) to rest, recover and soak up the training you put into it. 

So back to basics for me in order to get more rest, sleep and recovery. Here are my top ideas for getting a better night's rest (and what might get in the way):

  • drinking caffeine too late in the day
  • staying in bed if you can't fall asleep (after 30 minutes get back up and do something relaxing such as light stretching, breathing exercises, listening to relaxing music, progressive muscle relaxation)
  • staying in bed if you wake up during the night and can't fall back asleep (see above point)
  • eating high protein meals in the evening
  • engage in stimulating activities before bed (one exception here)
  • using devices such as laptops, mobile phones and TV in the hour before bed 
  • using alcohol or medication to fall asleep.

  • create a relaxing pre-sleep routine for the hour before bed - stretching, listening to relaxing music, reading a book, having a hot shower, looking at the stars or having a cup of herbal tea
  • get up at the same time each day
  • spend some daytime outdoors or in natural light
  • use your bed only for sleep and sex
  • get comfortable - clean sheets, dark room, right temperature, get rid of the light from electronics
  • reduce thinking and worrying in bed - keep a pad and pen to write down 'to do lists' that your mind keeps reminding you of, or write down the things that are bothering you.

Try it out. Pretend your a curious scientist conducting a 2-week experiment on your life and see how your body and mind feel at the end. 

On that note I'm off to stretch, listen to some Xavier Rudd and to convince my wife that giving me a calf massage is an integral part of my pre-sleep relaxation process. 

Sweet dreams :) 

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