In my last blog I wrote about choosing action steps with maximum leverage to move you forward in your fitness journey. I wrote it because of the number of customers I get in my store every week who are asking about the details of step 10 when really they should be focusing on step 1. If you haven’t read my previous post “Getting Clarity on Your Fitness Journey – Asking Quality Questions to Help You Move Forward,” click here to read it now.
In the same spirit of discussing fitness fundamentals, I thought that I would write about a couple of universal keys to everyone’s success – from the deconditioned beginner to the world class athlete.
What I’m about to say is not new and is really nothing more than common sense. Even so, I feel that it needs to be said yet again in the hopes of giving some of you a little nudge towards action if you are not currently employing the following action steps.
Sleep is so fundamental to health and well-being, it cannot be overstated. When you are sleep-deprived, your body cannot function optimally, period. Your body needs rest in order to repair itself, so if you are in the habit of sleeping too little, it’s in a constant state of disrepair. Not only does this not feel good, but it stunts the results from all your hard work in the gym. Your body adapts through a process of stimulation, for example, lifting weights, running, and then rest and repair. You need both to make progress, so do not skimp on sleep.
As for the amount of sleep, the general consensus seems to be somewhere between 7-9 hours. Of course, you have to listen to your body to get a sense of what’s right for you, but whatever it is, start moving towards it and start now.
As with all change, it’s best done in small increments. Don’t immediately try and change your bedtime from 12am to 10pm. If you normally sleep from 12am to 6am, spend the next week going to bed at 11:45pm. Then move to 11:30pm, and so on. It’ll feel easy at this rate and before you know it, you’ll have increased your time in bed by 1-2 hours per night (to give some perspective, that’s an additional 30-60 hours of rest per month!).
I won’t address the whole issue of sleep difficulties in this article such as insomnia, tossing and turning etc. That is another subject altogether! Just be in bed with the lights out at the pre-determined time. You’ll get more rest regardless because of the increased time in bed.
Lastly, I just read that tennis star, Serena Williams, goes to bed around 7pm! Not to suggest that you should adopt this exact same habit, but I think it emphasizes the point that sleep needs to be a priority if you want your body to be in good condition.
You’ve certainly heard this many times before but it bears repeating – you need to drink lots of water! Like sleep deprivation, water deprivation causes your body to function poorly on every level. From metabolizing food to muscle repair, your body needs to be well hydrated to perform its duties properly. If it isn’t, again, your work in the gym and in the kitchen (nutrition) will not yield the same results.
There are some natural side benefits to drinking water as well – namely that the more water you drink, the less you’ll drink of other stuff like sugary pop or juice, which is an immediate reduction in low-quality calories. Also, it’s free!
As a general guideline, 2L for men and 1.5L for women is a good daily target. It helps if you buy a 1L or 1.5L water bottle, then you can just think in terms of the number of water bottles you have to get down each day.
So if you’re not getting enough sleep and drinking enough water, start moving in that direction now. It’s a bedrock of sorts, without which your efforts in the gym and kitchen will be much less valuable. It’s simple, I know, but the most powerful actions are often the most simple.
“The minute you get away from fundamentals…the bottom can fall out of your game, your schoolwork, your job, whatever you’re doing.” –Michael Jordan
Have fun and train smart,
Manager, Fitness Town North Vancouver