Congratulations, you have made it halfway through the challenge! This is an enormous success in itself. Now you may be sweating it out in the gym and eating well but not seeing the results you would have liked. While you might be doing everything ‘right’ there are a few concepts, which need to be looked after to ensure you can get your results and keep them in the long-term. Sleep, recovery and hydration. These are 100% non-negotiable in my opinion. These are often overlooked, or pushed aside as not being important. But, if you set up your environment well, with proper sleep, adequate recovery and hydration, you’ll get to your goal quicker and be able to maintain it.
Here are some tips to incorporate, which can really elevate your results.
1. 8 hours of sleep each night. While his may seem extremely foreign or impossible for some of you depending on your job, family commitments and work schedule, this is possibly the most important take home message. Inadequate sleep already sets us up for failure. Our stress hormones increases (cortisol), our digestive and parasympathetic system gets pushed aside and our hunger cues get out of whack. You need to be aiming for 7-8 hours of sleep each night as a baseline. Then our good nutrition and training can really compliment this.
2. If you are having trouble getting to sleep at night – try a herbal tea before bed. This will activate the ‘rest and digest’ system and help us get into a more ‘sleep zone’.
3. Limit caffeine after midday. This includes coffee, strong teas, pre-workouts, and yes, chocolate. Caffeine may affect some people more than others, but if you are finding it hard to get to sleep on time or you are ‘wired’ at night, then try reducing your caffeinated beverages before bed. In an ideal world, no caffeine passed 10 a.m., but this isn’t realistic. Aiming for no caffeine after midday is a good start.
4. Try and limit your ‘blue light’ before bed. Basically, the harsh ‘blue light’ from phones, laptops, TV’s can mess up our natural sleep rhythm. It may be hard to remove this altogether, but if you are having sleep difficulties then this is a good place to start. Spending the last 30 minutes before sleep reading or stretching (not with TV, Netflix or phone) can reduce this ‘blue light’ exposure. If you do have to use your laptop before bed then the app ‘f.lux’ is great to decrease this harsh blue light (it’s free). The function ‘night mode’ on does the same thing on the iPhone.
Training can become addictive. Obviously we start to see results and we want more. Training is also a great way to relieve stress and anxiety so it is no wonder people want to train as much as they can. However, when we are recovering, is where we are making our progress. Let me stress that again. It is not in training, but in recovery where we make our progress. So, in training we are ‘tearing’ our muscles and pushing hard, and in our rest time is where the muscle gain and strength gain can occur.
Some tips to perfect your recovery:
1. Recommend 1 x session per day. This is to allow optimum recovery time between sessions. Often if you are doing 2 x sessions per day it is unlikely you will recover in time for the second session. This is very important with our Functional Sessions, and if your goal is muscle gain, strength gain or improved 1RM lifts. If your goals are more just weight loss then this is less important and 2 sessions per day may be okay for you. If you are doing 2 x sessions per day, you really need to have your recovery methods set up (some supplements such as L-glutamine and magnesium to aid in recovery.)
2. Foam rolling. Foam rolling is essentially releasing the fascia (which is different to the muscles). This can increase your blood flow to your muscles and can create better mobility and therefore performance in the session. Your location may have a foam roller, which you can use after your session (in conjunction with stretching).
3. Stretching and mobility. This is so important. Stretching before and especially after the sessions releases the lactic acid from your muscles. A really interesting fact is that stretching (and this subsequent release in lactic acid) can reduce anxiety. Doing some easy mobility moves before your sessions is a great way to set up for the sessions, and reduce your risk of injury. A great one is the ‘Asian squat’. You can do this by holding on to the rig while sitting in a squat position and have your chest up high. Staying in this position for 1-2 minutes is a great way to start the session.
As with sleep and recovery, hydration is a non-negotiable. The recommended intake of water for most adults is 2-3 Litres per day. This is especially important for Fit and Fast sessions as they are generally higher intensity and therefore require more hydration. If you are not a ‘water drinker’ then you could try adding some fresh fruit (a few berries), or fresh mint into your water bottle to increase the palatability. Another option would be to make your own iced tea, especially in the warmer months.
While it is not realistic to overhaul your life and implement all of these things overnight, these are definitely something to be striving towards. Any progress is progress. If you are not seeing the result you would have liked at this point, then go back to the basics, try to look at a few of these concepts and see what is going on for you. Find your handbrake. These really are the foundation with which your nutrition and training can build on.