We are all looking for ways to improve our health without putting in too much effort…..well that is what society wants. If you are reading this blog then you are most likely doing what you can to improve your health but we always need one of the following:
- Motivation and Inspiration.
- Change from our normal routine.
The three healthy tips I am going to provide you below are ones that I have written about in their own posts but as I enter into taper I realize that these three tips are going to be what keeps me healthy over the next two weeks. In addition to keeping me healthy they are going to be reinforced habits that make it easier to fall back into the routine after the 70.3 San Juan race is completed.
3 Tips To Improve Your Health
Sleeping is imperative regardless of what those people who tell you they can function on 4 hours of sleep. I say that is complete non-sense as I manage to get through on 6 hours some days but I know that will catch up to me. This usually happens during a peak week when I am asleep on the couch at 8pm and waking up at 5am for a solid 9 hours of sleep and getting up to go at it again.
Lately I have been running on those 6 hours per week but two weeks ago after yoga was complete I came home and stared at my laptop and could barely read the words. I was wiped out and needed to sleep. I put my head down for a 30 minute nap because anything longer than that is sleep and would affect me that evening. I wound up waking up 3 hours later. Obviously my body required more rest because when I woke up I felt great and my body felt like it was healthy again.
I have written about getting 8 hours of sleep previously, that you can read here but here are the highlights;
- Sleep deprivation was linked to metabolizing glucose less efficiently in addition to the fact that levels of cortisol were higher.
- The glucose levels for the group were no longer normal during the sleep deprivation week and resembled those found in the elderly. Since we know that glucose and glycogen (stored glucose) are the energy sources behind the ability of an endurance athlete to perform one can conclude that getting enough sleep is very important.
- What the study doesn’t address is how much sleep is enough? I don’t know that getting 8 hours is perfect but I do know that getting 4 hours is not enough and not just because of the glycogen stores, but because your mind is not in the game. You have a tendency to lose focus with sleep deprivation and this is caused by the increase in cortisol. If your mind is not focused then the task at hand is going to be more and more difficult to perform. Think about your best race and how well you slept the night before and think about your worst race and how you slept the night be.
Yesterday I rode a portion of the Ironman Texas course and then drove home and straight to a massage. That means that yesterday was 4 hours in the saddle, 3+ hours in the car and 1.5 hours on the table. How did this make me feel? I felt healthy on the bike, then a slug in the car and rejuvenated with a renewed focus after the massage. The massage was much-needed and being two weeks before the race it was perfectly timed.
Regular massage can do a couple of things can help to improve the status of your health:
- Massage increases the blood flow to muscles to help speed the healing process by flushing out metabolic waste. By having the muscle healed faster an athlete can resume training at a quicker pace and build up their strength to compete at a higher level than before.
- In addition to healing quicker, a massage will allow an athlete the opportunity to reconnect with their body. The mind will be able to decipher which muscles are sore/fatigues and need to be treated more often. It can bring awareness to those areas that are not functioning properly and in the long run help prevent injury.
A good rule of thumb is to get a massage at the beginning of the week of a race so that your muscles are not so relaxed that the body takes longer to get acclimated to the racing speed. Receiving a massage will put the athlete in a tranquil mood and while that is wonderful for the mind, the body needs to be capable of racing and be able to stand the rigors of the race. In addition to getting a massage early on race week it is recommended to get one immediately after a race and if that is not possible at least within one day and with their regular therapist.
Massage is not the only way to get these feelings to improve your health. Going to an A.R.T. professional will also help you. Regular visits to your A.R.T. professional will help you because it can focus on injuries before they become to bothersome and force you off your feet. In addition to that it will help your muscle balance which improves your health and overall efficiency for participating in your chosen sport.
If it is possible try to combine A.R.T. and massage. I have scheduled days with a 15-20 minute A.R.T. session followed by a 30 minute massage that has me walking out of the office in a state of mind that is focused on my health and well-being. In addition to that I am relaxed and ready to focus on what remains in my day.
I recently wrote about how yoga and swimming are the best of friends but that isn’t the first time I have written about yoga and the sport of triathlon. I have this post and this post that you can read. I believe yoga has allowed me to not only become a better athlete but a better person because I am able to focus my mind on the tasks at hand no matter the task.
My mental health has improved quite a bit and I am more relaxed than I used to be and reducing stress helps reduce cortisol levels, which as you read above, you know helps improve your overall health. Keeping your cortisol in check will make your days better.
Here are a few points about yoga:
- Yoga is a form based movement. If you have poor form in yoga you will fall over. By focusing on your core you will improve your balance and a stronger core will lead to improved health.
- Yoga focuses on breathing. To get deeper into your stretches you need to breath and losing that focus will cause the body to not react the way we would like. Have you ever been so mad that you don’t even realize that you aren’t breathing which causes stress on the body. By focusing on your breathe your anger will come down and you will be able to make better decisions.
- Yoga has poses the force you to back bend and get the spine engaged. The spine is a key component of your core and having a stronger spine will also improve your balance.
If you practice these three on a consistent basis then your health will improve. If you are an athlete and you incorporate these items into your routine and training you will see improved performance and in the end that is why we do what we do. We want to improve our performance but to do that you have to improve your health. Incorporating more sleep, massage/A.R.T. and yoga in your routine will be beneficial to your health.