To me, sleep has long been ‘everything’, but others have been coming round to this stance, as already, sleep is emerging as quite the hot topic in 2018, with several national newspapers drilling down into its favourable effects our constitution; as health and well-being (quite rightly) occupies a growing mindshare of ‘the Zeitgeist’, it seems only natural that society will begin to challenge that age-old travesty of sacrificing sleep to ‘look committed’ to a cause. We may, in our machismo, think of it as a bank account that can be raided, as a currency which can be exchanged for kudos, or perhaps as an unproductive use of our 24 precious hours, but times – and attitudes – are unquestionably changing. Sleep is fast being seen as an indulgent luxury of which we should consume more, not time wasted but time well invested, and even perhaps as a currency to be spent of its own accord. The tide is beginning to turn, it’s no longer as socially unpalatable to prioritise one’s own recovery, to have an early night, or even (heaven forbid) two in a row! The nation has begun a long overdue conversation about this topic; recovery is on the agenda more than ever before, whether you’re into fitness or not. This post is in collaboration with Tempur, and highlights the so-called Holy Trinity of Recovery; Sleep, Stretching and Sports Massage! Click MORE to read on…
To my mind, there are several components to optimal recovery, chief amongst them is sleep, followed closely thereafter by stretching, sports massage in equal runner-up positions. This is the Holy Trinity of Recovery! Taking each in turn;
It is the time-honoured antidote to tiredness, and perhaps more broadly, the regular cure for wakefulness, that condition by which we grow wearier as each day drags on! Foregoing the right amount, or right quality of sleep can weaken our immune systems, leave us sluggish and with less energy to work out, slow our metabolisms, make it harder to lose weight, affect blood sugar and blood pressure levels, increase appetite due to a depletion of satiety hormones, and trigger some pretty grumpy mood swings!
But if you get it right, regularly, it can enhance muscular recovery, restore mental acuity, release Human Growth Hormone, restore bone and organs, and generally make you a more content individual with whom to interact! It’s easy to preach that someone should ‘get more’, but harder to implement in practise.
On my travels writing this Blog, I’ve encountered a number of the country’s leading sleep scientists, several times each, and there seems to be a consensus amongst them for tips to optimise slumber. Investing in a good bed which is the largest possible size is the single largest and most game-changing adjustment most people can make, as they’re often sleeping on outdated, unsuitable, un-sleepworthy beds; a Tempur mattress is made with an optimally comfortable orthopaedic material on which to recover after a tough workout. Mindfulness and unflappable patience matter too, as does restrained alcohol consumption and no caffeine after 13:00; plus don’t exercise late at night, keep the bedroom temperature cool, introduce a clockwork routine every night, avoid props like sleeping pills, take a warm bath and burn a little lavender oil, and eradicate the blue light emitted by screens an hour or two prior to bedtime. Further, it seems de rigueur not to go back to sleep when the alarm clock rings!
2) SPORTS MASSAGE
This is one of my top luxuries to lavish upon my body after a hard session, but it’s not just a personal opinion; top athletes consider it critical to boost recovery as part of their physical conditioning program. Far from the lightweight, superficial ‘cosmetic’ sort of massage you ought to find at your local spa, this is an intense dose of focused, physical therapy schooled in the medically demonstrable study of the musculoskeletal and nervous systems, administered by qualified professionals. It helps loosen and soften hard muscle tissue, corrects imbalances, improves mobility, and releases accumulated tensions around the muscle sheaths. What’s more, rock-like muscles clumps make it harder for blood to flow, stopping your muscles getting what they need! With sports massage, the blood vessels dilate & membrane pores widen, allowing better oxygen flow, the transportation of lactic waste, as well as nutrients for the restoration of the muscles. It also reduces the muscular pain you feel called Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness, promotes relaxation, releases endorphins when some of the knotty nodes are targeted and can help to boost overall performance. It is a superb pursuit for the goal of recovery!
Too often at the gym, I observe stretching to be considered a sacrificial part of the workout, as if it’s somehow perfunctory to the purpose of training, and can therefore be cast aside until some nebulous time in the future. Yet just a few minutes after each session will form a habit that changes the way you age with your body.
- You’ll retain muscle balance better, as some muscles are tighter than others after hours of desk work each day but stretching helps to evenly condition them.
- Also to help minimise the aching feeling we experience the day or two after a big training session, a stretch is essential. DOMS, the industry acronym for Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness, is kept at bay when you stretch as you’re elongating and softening the muscle fibres, which helps you to re-condition for the next session!
- You’ll also expand your range of motion to encourage supple flexibility; when you stretch out a joint, you elongate the surrounding soft tissue i.e, ligaments and tendons, which means you’ll become more flexible with time, putting yourself less at risk of injury when you move into extremes of motion.
- Crucially, as the body ages, you’ll need to train it to remain as mobile as it is now. Many experience postural difficulties, and whilst some of these are unavoidable, many can be alleviated through a regular stretch.
So there we have it, the Holy Trinity of Recovery! With that in mind, perhaps now go and get some rest 🙂