Sleep may be the most overlooked aspect of a fitness plan. As a general rule, I like to get up early to do my workout. It makes me feel like I’ve got a head start on the day.
After a few days away in Whistler, I decided not to set an alarm. I found myself repeatedly waking up some time after 9am! Is it possible my body just needed the break?
When you sleep, your body becomes completely relaxed. Blood pressure drops, breathing slows down. Blood supply increases to the muscles and the tissues to promote repair. Hormones that promote muscle growth are released. Sleep also lowers stress chemicals, boosts our metabolism and bolsters the immune system!
If sleep is so beneficial, why do we have so much trouble finding time for it?
Here are some tips to get more rest and recovery into your week:
- Establish a Bedtime
This might mean you shut things down a little earlier than you are used to. To get a solid 8 hours, this means 10pm at the latest for most people – especially if you plan to get that early morning run in. Having a set bed time trains your body to get the rest routine it needs.
- Stop Working One Hour Before Bed
At 8 or 9pm, most offices are closed. There likely isn’t much value to throwing in another hour or two on a project, especially if you can tackle it with a fresh head in the morning. Giving yourself an hour to wind down will help that rest come all the more sweetly.
- Exercise Early
Ramping up the adrenaline is great, but putting your metabolism into high gear right before bed is not the way to promote rest! Exercising early will get the energy up for the day, but won’t leave your engine running when your head hits the pillow.
- Don’t Do Drugs
I don’t just mean the illicit kind – but caffeine, alcohol and sleeping medication all have negative effects toward the rest your body needs for recovery. A night cap might help you shut the eyes, but the quality of your sleep will suffer. Same goes for sleeping medication.
- Lights Out, Electronics Off
The darker the better. Artificial light is of no benefit to us at bedtime. Blackout blinds are best. As well, the buzzing and blinking of our smartphones keep our mind on work and other obligations when we need to be shutting down. I prefer to set my phone to airplane mode, if I need it on for an alarm. Total shutdown is preferable.
Working out is tough enough as it is. Life is busy. Without a regular sleeping habit, we cannot get the rest we need. Following these 5 steps will help you build the energy and endurance to tackle the day and promote better progress in your fitness plan.