I have been talking to a lot of clients (and more) about sleep and rest lately. Not only because it is something near and dear to my heart (it is), but because the change from summer to fall has gotten EVERYONE sick or worn down. It may sound like an oxymoron that I, a trainer, am telling people to rest instead of exercising every free moment they have. But I look at clients’ bodies a little differently, and it is no different how I look at (and treat) my own. Rest is not something we are forced to do when we are sick; it is one of many ways to care for ourselves so that we can RESIST sickness.
These days, sleep seems to be considered a “luxury”. Let me explain why try to make it a priority (do I always succeed? NO), and why I encourage clients and all others to do the same. Don’t worry, this won’t be super technical – that is, the body’s processes are so complex that I couldn’t explain it all if I wanted to. In a sleep-deprived body, a lot of things short circuit. You may have experienced (aside from fatigue) crankiness, fogginess, headaches, random aches, sugar cravings, or anything else. There is a lot of organ recharging and cell repair that goes on while we sleep, and if we don’t get enough sleep, we don’t get properly “recharged” and “repaired”. When this happens, it puts a huge drain on our system – in effect, the body goes into stress mode (read my previous post for more on stress). Add to the mix our typical diet that places stress on our body, and it becomes a mindless, vicious cycle. We drink coffee (lots of it), eat more sugar, drink “energy” drinks (battery acid, I call it)…..after a while we are toast. And we don’t even know it; we are in effect pumping ourselves up with things that are hurting us even more just to stay AWAKE. Hopefully you see where I’m going – it’s about more than staying awake. It’s about caring for our our bodies so those bodies will keep ticking when we really need it. Like now – when we are all fighting a cough, an allergy, a chill.
The change of season can take a toll on us (which one depends on each person) – I hate to see people getting sick, but it is a daily reminder of how well people are taking care of themselves on a regular basis. The tank is already drained and there is little left to fight the shorter days, colder nights, and so on. I am a walking example that it is possible to reverse this cycle – I rarely get full-on sick now. I sneeze a bit, sleep too lightly, get some digestive upset (TMI?) – but I go to acupuncture, target my diet for what is deficient (with guidance from Chinese medicine, really), slow down a bit, and I bounce back in a couple days. I really practice what I preach. So today, when I told my client to take a bath and go to sleep before 11pm**, I really mean it. I know it works. I will help her reach that goal of doing it more often than not, so we can get her body back in balance and get more out of her workouts. Because in the end, I can work her until she’s sweating bullets every other day, but if her body is not in balance she will see less weight loss – maybe even none – and the cold that she just got over might come back sooner than she wants.
It should always be a part of anyone’s exercise plan: rest, eat well, SLEEP. And lay off the coffee! Take care of your body so, when you need it, your body will take care of you.
**Why 11pm? Again, we are cyclical: up to 11pm our melatonin rises to make us sleepy (this is when you SHOULD go to bed!). Between 11pm-1am our bodies are in high speed recharge mode; this is supposed to happen while we are sleeping. So if you find yourself getting a “second wind” or unable to fall asleep before 1 or 2am, this is why. It will take some practice to get back to sleeping before 11pm, even though it may sound crazy right now.