Even fitness professionals have goals when it comes to their strength and fitness. And I’m no different.
I have been training consistently. I was doing my strength workouts 2-3 times a week, my cardio interval workout 2-3 times a week. I was pushing myself, and working hard. But I wasn’t making progress. So, I
cleaned up my diet, too. I limited the number of processed carbs (fast-burning white carbs like sugar, bread, pasta and rice) I was eating, increased my healthy proteins (chicken, grass fed beef, turkey) and I even starting taking supplements (pre-and post-workout – multivitamins, fish oil, calcium and magnesium) to improve performance and my recovery…
There it was, right in front of me… the reason I was only making limited progress. But I just couldn’t see it. I thought I was doing everything right, but then I realized I was missing one key ingredient.
Wait…where is my recovery??!? I realized one day while doing a set of HURRICANES (sprints followed immediately by 2 or 3 strength exercises), in a workout structured to force me to rest and recover during the workout, that I was pushing myself in every area except one.
I was not recovering enough to improve. I wasn’t giving my body what it needed to make the changes that the TRAINING and DIETING and SUPPLEMENTS were supposed to elicit. Here are the 3 things that I have added to my regimen, and since then, I have seen marked improvements in mental focus and overall energy while seeing an increased loss of body fat while maintaining lean muscle:
SLEEP (The Big Kahuna)
The importance of sleep and its impact upon your physical well-being is astronomical. Many of your bad habits or prolonged issues can be linked to a lack of sleep.
The risk of obesity rises with those with a sleep deficit. A study in teenagers showed with every hour of sleep lost, the risk for obesity rose.
Sleep plays a critical role in our hormonal balance as well. A healthy amount of sleep balances the levels of ghrelin, the hormone that make you feel hungry, and leptin, the hormone that makes you feel full. If you wake up in the morning starving, blame it on a no-so-good night’s sleep. When you’re restless, your levels of ghrelin increase and your leptin levels decrease. Sleep can also affect insulin, the hormone that regulates blood sugar levels. Higher blood sugar levels can increase the threat of diabetes.
Sleep deficits will affect your recovery as well. When you sleep your heart and blood vessels are repairing themselves, and sleep releases a hormone to boost muscle mass. Continued unrest increases your risk for a host of issues including heart disease, kidney disease, high blood pressure and stroke.
The good news is physical activity and your nutrition can aid in a good night’s sleep. Activity during the day (but not close to bedtime) helps you fall asleep faster and stay asleep longer. Making sure you don’t go to sleep hungry or too full and avoiding alcohol and caffeine also can help ease you into a restful slumber.
Relax the mind. I love the idea of recovery for the mind. Think about the stress and work the mind goes through every day: making decisions, solving problems and just dealing with life. But when do we give the mind a chance to rest? And sorry, but no, TV just doesn’t do the trick. There are many benefits to meditation, but it can be a bit challenging to achieve them. But try it – give yourself 5-10 minutes a day for 10 days to sit quietly in meditation and see if you don’t feel calmer, more relaxed and less REACTIVE to what goes on in life.
Meditation is like recovery for your brain. Try it – here is my favorite tool for meditation and it offers a free 10-day program: www.headspace.com.
Mobility can be defined as a way of softening up the (muscle) tissues of the body to aid in performance (pre-workout) and in recovery (post-workout). This is a combination of soft tissue work like foam rolling (using a roller, ball or stick) as well as stretching (try a combination of active, dynamic and static stretches) all of which aid in lengthening the tissues so they don’t get SHORT and TIGHT which is what happens when we push the body.
This should be done on a daily, consistent basis. 10-15 minutes a day in one or two key areas will show improvements in recovery, range of motion and a general sense of health and vitality (it’s hard to feel young and vibrant when you are tight and sore all the time).
Want to lose body fat, look and feel better, and have more energy? Workout a little less and instead focus more of your attention on getting more sleep, relaxing your mind with meditation and increasing your physical recovery with daily mobility work so you can avoid injury, aging and pain.
Try it for 10 days and let me know if you don’t feel SO MUCH BETTER and more importantly, are seeing better results from your workouts!
Phil Dozois, Breakthru Fitness, Owner