Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Our Thoughts

The Importance of Sleep/Rest

As I lie here on my couch feeling nauseous, achy and feverish, I'm pondering health and the importance of rest.  And giving myself a little scolding for not listening to my body, and giving it the rest it needed before I got sick.

I used to think being healthy included exercise and nutrition, but lately I have been learning through personal experience that sleep and rest are just as important.  When any one of those 3 are out of balance you are likely to find yourself unhealthy or at the very least very fatigued and heading towards over training.

At our box we emphasise the importance of diet/nutrition, which is why we encourage Paleo.  We believe it provides the very best fuel for our bodies thus assisting us in tipping the meter towards healthy.  And of course we all know how important those workouts are.  But for those of us who have a lot of built in stress in our lives, working out to much (which is different for everyone) or working out on not enough sleep, can actually tip the meter towards unhealthy.  Which is what I am experiencing.  I worked out hard 4 days last week and ran an additional day (so 5 days of exercise).  All that with a lack of sleep, followed by another night of short sleep (not a good recovery) and I found myself sliding down a slippery slope.  I cannot express the importance of sleep/rest enough.  Your body needs that time to repair itself, rest actually helps you in your next workout!

I have been reading the book THE PALEO DIET FOR ATHLETES by Loren Cordain PhD and Joe Friel MS, it has a great chapter on the subject of recovery.  So rather than take my word for it, I thought I would share some quotes from the book with you.  I apologize in advance that it is not short reading, but I feel it is so important, I ask you to read on and not skip it.

"Effective training is more than workouts.  It is a carefully balanced state of well-being between stress and rest.  When this balance is achieved your fitness improves at a steady rate. Recovery has several components, the two most critical being rest and nutrition.  What you eat plays as great a role in your day-to-day performance as anything else in your training arsenal."

"When stress (workouts) only just exceed rest for a few days, the body adapts and becomes more fit....  Overload the body with  the right amount of stress (think workouts) then allow it to rest."  This is why we have scheduled rest days.  "During rest, the body's adaptive process takes place--muscles grow stronger, enzymes become more abundant, the heart increases it's ability to pump blood and other seminal physiological and psychological changes occur.  On a more sinister note, when stress exceeds rest for more than a few days, the athlete begins to experience unrelenting fatigue and exhaustion.  This is over training.  Over training may not simply result from to much exercise and to little rest.  The stress component could also be related to work, school, relationships, finances, relocating or a myriad of other stressors....  Such stress when combined with what may be a perfectly appropriate level of exercise will produce over training if rest in inadequate, just as surely as to much exercise produces over training.

All this is not to say that you shouldn't push yourself in training or that you should never experience fatigue.

Paying close attention to the elements of recovery, especially rest and nutrition,you can avoid over training and steadily improve your fitness.

Recovery following challenging workouts is essential for avoiding over training.  If nutritional action is not taken after a hard training session, the body may not be ready to go by the next workout, leading to a gradual decline in performance over the course of a few days, followed by over reaching and ultimately over training.  More and more research suggests that, besides consuming Carbohydrates immediately after such sessions, taking in protein improves the recovery process.  Adding protein to your post workout (nutrition)..., will go a long way in promoting recovery.

The following are indicators of inadequate dietary protein...

*frequent colds sore throats

*slow recovery from workouts


*chronic fatigue

*Poor mental focus

*sugar cravings

*cessation of menstrual periods"

Another important part of your recovery is water!  Seems simple enough, but most of us just don't drink enough of it.  "...drinking more water between workouts is (another) effective way of boosting performance while helping to avoid over training.  It is far better to prevent over training in the first place than to deal with it after the fact.  The best way to avoid this pitfall is to follow a long-term, periodized training plan that schedules weekly rest and recovery days, monthly rest and recovery weeks (and includes great nutrition)."  This is the very reason you will see rest days on our schedule and why we encourage you to take rest days.

For optimum performance be sure your diet is not lacking in total calories, and especially not lacking in protein, fat and water.  Get lot's of rest...got to bed early, learn to take naps and enjoy those rest days.  Follow the Whole30/Paleo eating recommendations and you will be well on your way to being the healthy and fit person you desire.

Sheilla Salinger

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  1. Good article! I loved it and I'll need to read it over and over again. Thanks!!

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