“To get fit and lose weight, you have to exercise hard everyday, right? More is better, and exercising more often will get me to my goal faster.”
This is a common belief, but more is not always better.
There is no doubt that exercise is important, but its a small part of a bigger picture. In today’s busy and stressful world, most people don’t have the time or interest to build a life that revolves around working out 24-7 just to look and feel good.
More important than that, you don’t have to!
The good news is that you can get better results without spending more time in the gym or adding more workouts to your busy schedule. All you need to do is give a little TLC to something you’re already doing!
The Importance of Sleep
Sleep gives the body the opportunity to recover from exercise and grow. Your hormones, memory, concentration, and appetite are all affected by both the quality and quantity of your sleep.
While it is common to think “sleep is for the weak” and down another coffee to keep you going, you may want to reconsider this approach.
Sleep deprivation, a condition defined as not having enough quality sleep, is so widespread that it is considered a public health issue. Side effects of sleep deprivation include fatigue, adverse effects on brain and cognitive function, impaired immune system, increased stress hormone levels, increased risk of type II diabetes, and problems with attention and working memory.
In addition to potential health risks, all of the above can negatively impact your performance in the gym, ability to recover from training, and nutrition habits. If you want better results from training, don’t take sleep for granted!
What can you do to improve your sleep quality?
- Aim for the recommended 7-9 hours every night.
- Take naps if needed. Napping is a great way to stay focused, energized and sharp throughout the day. Make your naps 30 minutes or less to maximize benefits and avoid feeling sluggish after waking. If you have trouble sleeping through the night or find it hard to get 7-9 hours of sleep at night, napping is the solution!
- Keep the room cool and avoid extreme temperatures.
- Sleep in a dark room. Use a sleep mask or black out curtains to limit the amount of light.
- Limit use of electronic devices and social media before bed. Not only are interior and external lights the culprits, but also light from electronic devices (phones, tablets, TV, etc.). A common recommendation is to stop the use of electronic devices at least 30 minutes before bedtime
Elite athletes, top companies and some of the most brilliant minds in history all recognized the health and performance benefits of quality sleep. Let’s take a page from their playbook!
Dhand, Rajiv, and Harjyot Sohal. “Good Sleep, Bad Sleep! The Role of Daytime Naps in Healthy Adults.” Current Opinion in Internal Medicine 6.1 (2007): 91-94. Web.
“SSE #113: Sleep and the Elite Athlete.” Gatorade Sports Science Institute. N.p., n.d. Web. 20 July 2016.
“How Many Hours of Sleep Should I Get | Sleep.org.” SleepOrg. N.p., n.d. Web. 20 July 2016.
We have many ways to measure the the success of our fitness program: losing inches, gaining muscle, lifting more weight, running faster, and cycling further.
But what about the impact of training and other forms of stress? Can we measure how we are responding and recovering based on more than how we feel?
Enter heart rate variability
Heart rate variability is the phenomenon of variation in intervals between heart beats.Our hearts pump blood regularly, but they don’t work exactly like a machine or metronome. This can provide lots of useful information about how we respond to stress.
To better understand this concept, it helps to know a little about how the nervous system works.
The autonomic nervous system regulates bodily functions including heart rate, digestion, respiratory rate and sexual arousal. It has two branches:
Sympathetic: responsible for “fight or flight” response. Increases heart rate, dilates pupils, inhibits digestion and sexual arousal.
Parasympathetic: responsible for “rest and digest” response. Slows heart rate, constricts pupils, and is responsible for recovery.
When measuring heart rate variability, a higher score means the parasympathetic nervous system is dominant. On the other hand, a low score means the sympathetic nervous system is dominant.
Why is this important?
Monitoring heart rate variability lets you assess the stress load on the nervous system. We grow stronger by adapting to stress, but only if we can recover from it! Keeping track allows you to see when to push yourself and when to back off. This lets you individualize and manage your exercise program for better results.
How to measure heart rate variability
There are several smartphone apps (Elite HRV, iThlete, BioForce HRV, and CardioMood) that take readings for you. You’ll need a heart rate monitor with a bluetooth ready chest strap (the Polar H7 chest strap is most commonly used. The apps do not support wrist based heart rate monitoring) Take your measurement regularly and under the same conditions.
As a fast, effective, and non invasive way to measure fitness and stress management, heart rate variability can’t be beaten. Get started today and take your fitness program to the next level!
A good massage can be very rewarding
It helps us relax, relieves stress and just feels nice. Who doesn’t like to feel pampered every now and then?
That being said, massage isn’t all about candles, aromatherapy and relaxing music. If your priorities are more focused on improving physique, athletic performance, or the ability to make it through the day with energy to spare, there is good news.
Some benefits of massage therapy are reduced pain, and improved mobility and muscle tone. This is important for all types of exercise. In resistance training, best results come from performing an exercise through its full range of motion. For activities like running, cycling and swimming, full range of motion is just as important for proper movement mechanics and avoiding injury. If there is a limitation preventing you from reaching full range of motion in training, a combination of massage and regular stretching might be the solution.
Massage can also improve blood and lymph flow, speed tissue regeneration and reduce inflammation of skeletal muscle, all of which can reduce recovery time. Less soreness can lead to better quality training sessions and better results. That’s one less excuse to skip the next workout.
Other benefits of massage therapy
Massage also helps you in and out of the gym. Better quality sleep, reduced stress and increased immune function can make exercise, work, following a nutrition plan, and life in general easier to manage on a daily basis.
The benefits of massage extend to more than just athletes and performance goals. Aches and pains caused by muscle tension can be relieved with massage. That is good news for everyone. Massage therapy can also be helpful for medical conditions such as Multiple Sclerosis and Parkinson’s Disease. The muscle stiffness associated with these conditions can be reduced with massage, which, in some cases, may make moving around less difficult.
Whether you are a casual exerciser, athlete or fall somewhere in between, massage therapy can be very beneficial for keeping you pain free to train harder, feeling better overall and spend less time sidelined with injuries.
- Franklin, PhD, Nina C. , Mohamed M. Ali, MD, Austin T. Robinson, MS, Edita Norkeviciute, BS, and Shane A. Phillips, PT, PhD. “Massage Therapy Restores Peripheral Vascular Function After Exertion.” Archives of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation: n. pag. Web.
- J. D. Crane, D. I. Ogborn, C. Cupido, S. Melov, A. Hubbard, J. M. Bourgeois, M. A. Tarnopolsky, Massage Therapy Attenuates Inflammatory Signaling After Exercise-Induced Muscle Damage. Sci. Transl. Med. 4, 119ra13 (2012).
- Massey, C. Dwayne, John Vincent, Mark Maneval, and J.T. Johnson. “Influence of Range of Motion in Resistance Training in Women: Early Phase Adaptations.” Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research 19: 409-411. Print.
- Turchaninov, Ross, and K. Gray. “Massage and Athlete’s Recovery.”Therapeutic Massage: A Scientific Approach. Phoenix, AZ: Aesculapius, 2000. 28-29. Print.