Why Your Brain Needs Sleep

On the weekend I was able to link up with some friends for a pick up game of football. There’s a group message for these games. And since the Spring I’ve had to decline the invites and posts to come out to play.

That all changed Saturday when we met up for a game. And it had been a year or so since I’d been out to play. I expected there would be some rust. And I expected to be sore later. Active recovery, nutrition and sleep had to be planned and dialed in if I expected to get through the days that followed.

I should add that after the game I stopped in to the gym to test some lifts. So I knew sleep would come easily that evening.

But why do we need sleep? And how are my needs for sleep different than that of a baby or a young child? (cue the jokes of being a big baby or acting like a child on occasion…I’ll wait)

A recent study explains the different needs for sleep at various stages in life.

As a baby up until two or three years of age sleep is needed for neural re-organization and learning. This is when our brain is still building and developing and we see the changes almost daily as first steps are taken and first words are spoken. This learning occurs during REM (rapid eye movement) stage sleep and for babies this can account for 50% of sleep. This makes sense when you consider the amount of growth and learning that takes place in the first 24 to 36 months. This is also the reason we let babies sleep as long as they need and don’t wake them. When you wake someone deep in REM stage sleep they will be tired, cranky and irritable for the rest of the day.

Once we turn two or three we use sleep more for maintenance and repair. During sleep there is clearance of metabolites and circuit reorganization. And we start to spend less of our sleep in REM. By the age of 10 this has reduced from 50% as a baby to 25% as a 10 year old.

As adults REM stage sleep is the time we are able to repair our brains,
clear metabolites and re-organize circuits.

And the proportion of our sleep as REM continues to drop as we age.

At 50 years old we spend only about 15% of our total sleep time in REM. So this means less time for repair, metabolic clearance and circuit re-organization.

In the book Younger Next Year, the authors talk about life, and more specifically our health, being divided into two stages. We are either in a stage of growth or decay. While the number one rule of the authors is to exercise six days per week, we can see how a lack of sleep either supports our ability to recover from exercise, through repair and re-organization, and reap the rewards, or impairs it.

On the flip side a lack of sleep leads to dementia and cognitive disorders. There is less opportunity for repair as only 15% of our sleep may be REM stage and therefore it becomes even more critical to have routines and habits in place to facilitate quality sleep.

Click here for some tips on how to establish an optimal routine for the best sleep.

We’ve always been big advocates for getting enough quality sleep every night. There will be times when you can’t train as frequently or intensely as you’d like. Sometimes there isn’t the opportunity or availability of the best quality nutrition. Better sleep doesn’t cost you anything and everyone knows how to do it. Protect your sleep so can take advantage of the repair that occurs when your head hits the pillow and you stave of the decay that can occur with age.

References

Cao, J., Herman, A. B., West, G. B., Poe, G., & Savage, V. M. (2019). Unraveling why we sleep: Quantitative analysis reveals abrupt transition from neural reorganization to repair in early development. bioRxiv, 827212.

Crowley, C., Lodge, H. S., Leslie, D., & Adamson, R. (2004). Younger next year. HighBridge.

10 Reasons You’ll Come Out Of COVID-19 Fitter

Your gym is closed. You need to keep distance from every one else. You might even be self-quarantined.

You can’t access your coach. You don’t have a home gym set up. And if you’re not an athlete what’s the point of working on your performance and fitness anyway?

Doesn’t really sound like the prescription to improving your fitness and performance?

But it could be.

Below are 10 reasons you’ll come out of COVID-19 fitter than before this all started.

1. Fitter relative to everyone else.

Truth is we compare ourselves to others. Good or bad, it happens. We go on a hike with friends and family and notice we’re the only ones huffing and puffing while wishing there were more stops for selfies i.e. rest and water breaks.

You go on a beach vacation and you notice who goes to the pool and who avoids it. And of those that venture into the water who is all wrapped up and who ditches the cover ups and gets right in.

Whatever the situation, we measure our efforts and progress relative to those around us. And guess what? Something like that doesn’t change during a pandemic. For athletes seasons have been cancelled. Teams have been disbanded. And to prevent gatherings of larger groups there are no practices or training sessions. Most are in a holding pattern waiting until things return to normal.

And while most are doing nothing some are doing something. And if it something isn’t a lot or as much as you normally do it’s more than your competitor that is binge watching Tiger King and already finished the new season of Ozark.

Small, frequent and steady progress always leads to improvement compared to massive training sessions that only happen once in a while. If you are young athlete this is a great opportunity to create some separation and improve while your opponent sits idle.

2. You’ve got the time.

Time is one of the biggest excuses we use to avoid exercising. And during non-pandemic times this is an excuse. But now there’s no reason to not find the time. Here’s why.

First of all, look at all the time that’s freed up in your day. You aren’t stuck in traffic. You don’t loop a building looking for parking. You aren’t commuting going from one appointment to another. You probably don’t need to do as much laundry as normal. For those that can’t leave the house grocery shops have become simply texting a list to a friend. And all of the events are your calendar are cancelled whether this was playing in a rec sports league, going to a concert or play, attending church or anything else.

So let’s agree you’ve got the time.

But secondly it doesn’t take that much time. Sometimes we think ‘I’ve only got 20 minutes, what’s the point?’ 20 minutes of intense exercise done daily will lead to results. Plus, in a regular gym setting there are opportunities to chat at the water fountain. Or to hang out and talk between sets. Or maybe you’re waiting on your favourite piece of equipment to get started. All of sudden these bottlenecks and distractions evaporate.

It doesn’t take that much time and you’ve got enough.

3. You will eat better.

Now is a great time to improve your nutrition. Not only is there a great chance the whole family can eat dinner together but you should see improvements with your nutrition.

This may be because you’re running low on supplies and are finding novel ways to make meals. Or it could be because someone else is doing the shopping for you. If that’s the case you’re less likely to impulse shop. You can’t taste all the samples. You probably don’t include the pillow case of potato chips in the grocery list for your delivery person. And if your list gets misinterpreted you’ll end up trying new foods you otherwise wouldn’t consider. Lastly, being stuck at home means you’re probably making more of your own meals. This way you can control the quality and quantity of what you eat.

4. You will get more vitamin D.

Right outside our door is a huge park and trail network. It’s one of my favourite things about living where we do because there’s no need to drive or go anywhere. I cross the street and I’m on trails with wildlife, fresh air, lakes and incredible views.

Now we built our home over 10 years ago. And I’ve been hiking and running those trails ever since. Typically I would be the only one on the trails when I would go out. Now it seems like our whole neighbourhood is heading for the hills. You see families going for hikes. You see people on their mountain bikes. And kids take their dogs up there as well. It has never been busier.

When you think that most people tend to stay in during the winter months and that many are deficient in vitamin D this change in behavior will have an impact on improving health.

5. There is a greater need.

Have there been times in your life when you should have done something, but didn’t. And then eventually it got to a point when you had to do that thing? Maybe it was writing a term paper for a class in college. Or maybe it was filing your taxes just before the deadline.

Whatever the situation, sometimes the pain or potential punishment has to get real enough before we take action. In the cases above this would be failing a course or getting assessed penalties and interest from the government.

Right now we are cooped up. And things are fluid and changing constantly. Nobody has the answers as to when this will end.

At times like these we need exercise more than ever before. We need to establish some sort of routine when school and work is disrupted. We need to get ourselves moving when we are being told to hunker down. And we need a release when the uncertainty of the situation can wear on you. This doesn’t even begin to touch on the fact that those with poor health to begin with are even more at risk.

6. Your excuses are gone.

Truth from the man himself.

I look at sales as a transaction that solves a problem for someone. I need transportation. You sell cars. To get to an agreeement you need to get past some objections.

Fitness is no different.

‘The gym is always busy’. ‘I forgot my running shoes’. ‘I couldn’t find parking’. ‘My training partner or coach is away’. ‘I’m injured’.

There are lots of excuses we use to avoid exercise. Now many of them don’t exist. If we relied heavily on excuses in the past we’ll probably find new ones.

7. You improve your weak links.

Do you have a favourite restaurant? And if so, do you have a favourite meal there? Do you recommend it to friends when you hear they’re going to your favourite spot?

Of course you do. We all do.

We’re creatures of habit. And we have likes and dislikes.

When it comes to training there are people who love mobility and stretching. This tends to be really bendy people who maybe grew up as figure skaters, dancers, cheerleaders or gymnasts. They love grabbing a mat and spending the hour going through their favorite stretches and yoga-style movements while avoiding the squat rack at all costs.

Or picture the cardio king or queen at the gym. They love doing marathon sessions at the gym on ‘their’ favourite piece of equipment. You know what I mean? It’s not just that they always do the same 60 minutes on the elliptical it’s that they have to use the exact same piece of cardio equipment when they do so.

Now there may not be the same opportunity to access the treadmill or squat rack. And so we need to find new options to stay active. Maybe the bodybuilder spends a little more time working on their mobility and core strength. Maybe the powerlifting gets outside and goes for hike. And maybe the hyper-mobile person tries some at home bodyweight strength training.

The truth is we probably don’t have access to our regular set up of equipment and training partners and we may be forced to try something new that will shore up a weak spot in our fitness.

8. You’ve held yourself accountable.

Eating well, moving your body and getting enough sleep are important components of a healthy lifestyle.

But they mean anything if not applied with intent, frequency and intensity.

And that’s where accountability comes in. Because the best results don’t go to those with the best genetics. And the best chefs don’t eat the best. And the smartest exercise scientists aren’t the cover models for the fitness books.

It’s the people that make sleep, nutrition and exercise a part of their daily ritual. It doesn’t matter if it’s a holiday, they go for a run. It doesn’t matter if they trave for work, they eat healthily. It doesn’t matter if there’s a pandemic going on, they get enough sleep.

Accountabiliy is the lighter fluid that ignites everything and puts in all in motion. Without it we never get started. When we don’t get started there are no actions. And without action there are no results.

Right now a number of people are figuring out how to hold themselves accountable. And they are learning self discipline. And this will lead to great results during the coronavirus.

9. You will get better sleep.

Sometimes when a client comes to us and says they aren’t seeing the results they’d like to see we look a couple of things.

We want to know if the efforts are appropriate and specific to the goal. We want to know that these efforts are consistent and happening frequently enough. We want to know that there is an intensity of effort. And we want know that there is purposeful intent with the training with every set and rep.

If everything looks good on the training side then we want to look at the other side of the ledger. I say ledger because you should think of this as though it were an accounting situation. Do the inputs balance the outputs? In this case one of the inputs would be sleep.

I would guess many people have the opportunity for greater sleep right now. I already discussed above how we should have more time. And this should allow us to get to bed earlier. Plus if we don’t have to drive the kids to school. Or we don’t have to go in to work. If that’s case than there may not be the same need to set an alarm.

We can go to bed earlier. We can sleep until rested. And with setting the clocks ahead a few weeks ago, with getting outside for more vitamin D and with better nutrition we are setting the stage nicely for better sleep.

I’ve written before here how sleep is the secret weapon for fat loss. Now is the time to take advantage of this weapon.

10. You have access to more coaching.

I’ve also written previously how those who work with a coach get 40% better results than the DIY (do it yourself) crowd.

And if you want to improve your career, it makes sense to look at what the top CEOs and entrepreneurs do. The majority work with a fitness professional on a daily basis.

A few years ago a colleague shared the idea of a coach being something/someone that brings you places. For example, a horse and buggy would serve such a purpose.

But not does a coach bring you places but it does so more efficiently, more safely and more enjoyably. I enjoy following the markets for investing but I still rely on Ben S to handle this area of my life for me. He’s a professional and spends all of his time in this area. I will get better results and mitigate risk by handing the reins (see what I did there?) in this area of my life.

Not only will a coach deliver better results sooner, and more safely, but this is also true when you increase the frequency of coaching appointments. If someone were to work with a coach once every two weeks they would not achieve the same results as if they were working with a coach daily.

Right now our coaches are available on a daily basis. They are coaching our clients every day. On rest days there is a quick call to check-in and see how they’re doing. The coaches are offering more content and classes than ever. You can quickly access more help for stretching, mobility, core training as well as nutritional tips, recipes and recovery strategies.

Once everything returns to normal we’re going to see some clients that achieved some incredible results. The frequency of their training may have improved. They have a higher level of accountability. And their sleep and nutrition are a little better as well. And looking back they will find COVID-19 was a time when they were their fittest.

Sleep, Cravings and High Calorie Foods

There are a few goals we have for everyone we work with. It doesn’t matter if the individual’s goal is performance, weight loss or rehab we look to achieve this with all of them?

Do you know what ‘it’ is?

Never Would I Ever

Last week I was watching the Bachelorette with my wife. And yes, I surrendered my man card before settling in on the couch to watch.

4 Conditions for Better Sleep

Recently I was sharing with a client how one of the most important factors related to how quickly and how much weight someone loses is not their training program. It isn’t the sets and the reps. Or the frequency or duration. Or even the type of activity.

And I’m not specifically referring to their nutrition. It isn’t the ratio of macro-nutrients. Or the total energy consumed. Or the timing of the meals. Or whether they fasted or not.

Sure all these matter and play a role in a weight loss strategy. But these efforts can all be wasted if there isn’t one key component of a healthy lifestyle already in place.

And this key component is sleep.

I’m not going to go into detail in this blog about the impact of sleep and fat loss. If you would like to know more, and are interested in which hormones are involved in sleep and fat loss then make sure to comment below and I’ll see you the report.

But for now let’s focus on getting the best sleep possible. And to do this I’ve broken this up into four categories which are routine, technology, journal and nutrition. Below is a little more detail on each.

Condition #1 for Better Sleep – Routine

In order to get the best sleep you need to establish a sleep routine. For here the analogy to use is putting a baby to sleep.

If you do the same things in the same order each day at the same time before bed a baby will not only know to expect sleep is coming but will actually look forward to sleep. Change the order of the things you do and the baby may not sleep. Do these things at a different time and the baby may not sleep. Change the types of things you do before bed and the baby may not sleep.

So the take home message is you are a big baby and need a bedtime routine.

Now think of all the factors that can influence whether you sleep or not including:
* time for bed
* meal before bed
* type and volume of drink before bed
* darkness of the room
* coolness of the room
* quietness of the room
* activities before bed
* comfortableness of the bed

And there are many more bedtime conditions we could add to this list. And this doesn’t even begin to look at any of the things going on between your ears before bed.

If you are still stuck about how this all works get yourself a baby and practice for a couple of months and you’ll see the value of establishing a bedtime routine.

Condition #2 for Better Sleep – Technology

The problem with technological devices is that they emit light and engage our minds. The light tricks our brains into thinking we are out in the sun and still have work to do. As a result there is a delay in secreting the sleep hormone melatonin.

Before all of the e-readers we would have read something fun that wasn’t backlit and therefore disrupted the sleep response. In addition to the reading from an iPad the same applies to working at any work station or sitting in front of the TV.

Since the time response for our brains to detect a lower amount of light and begin the process of secreting melatonin in not instantaneous we should anticipate this delay and begin limiting our exposure to light by dimming the lights ahead of our anticipated sleep time.

I won’t get into too much other detail regarding technology and sleep other than to say ditch the alarm if you can. The more consistent your sleep becomes you’ll soon get to the point where you’ll wake up without alarm. Alternatively you could use a Sleeptracker watch which wakes you at your most awake point in the sleep cycle. I’ve heard there is an app for your phone for this but I’m not sure if sleeping with your phone under your pillow is your best option.

In the meantime unplug as much as possible and dim the lights a little bit earlier than normal.

Condition #3 for Better Sleep – Journal

When it comes to training the best results come to those that write down everything they do in the gym. And the same goes with nutrition. I mean how else can you measure success or not if you don’t know all the steps you took?

The same applies to your sleep.

What was the temperature of the room when you had your best night’s sleep? What did you eat and drink before bed? What did you do before bed? What time did you go to bed? And when did you wake up? Were you up during the night? And did you wake up to an alarm or on your own?

And since there is just as much value to the factors to that didn’t contribute to optimal sleep we want to know the answers to the above when you didn’t sleep well.

Pretty soon you’ll know the exact conditions to replicate for the best night’s sleep.

But besides journalling the sleep conditions there is another task that involves journalling. And it’s called a brain dump.

Have you ever gone to sleep with a number of things running through your head? And you end up not sleeping because you try to resolve these during the night?

If this happens to you than you should try a brain dump which involves writing down everything that is going on in your head before you go to sleep. Maybe you’re thinking about an upcoming trip. And booking flights, renewing your passport, arranging for time off work, a kennel for the pet and to cancel the newspaper subscription…

It’s easy to see how all these details may keep you up at night. A brain dump will help you release these tasks before bed and allow you to drift off. Another suggested benefit is the subconscious may help to resolve some of your tasks during your sleep and present solutions to you upon waking.

Condition #4 for Better Sleep – Nutrition

We all know that caffeine and alcohol will disrupt sleep. But what about high calorie meals? Or meals that are high in carbohydrates? Or that are high on the glycemic index?

Think of everything you eat as sending a message to your brain regarding whether you are about to sleep or work? If carbohydrates are fuel source maybe a high carbohydrate meal before bed isn’t the best option.

And be careful of the caffeine free diet sodas which stimulate the part of the brain which craves sugar. So even though you won’t be getting many carbs or caffeine from the soda you may just stay up a little later or delay sleep by the chips that went along with it.

If you are starving before bed look to have a small snack of protein and fat with minimal carbohydrate. And the carbohydrate should be low to medium on the glycemic index.

Going forward pick the one strategy above that you think will be the easiest for you to commit for the next couple of weeks. After that work on the next easiest and so forth until you have achieved control over all areas that may influence your sleep.

All the best,

Chris

 

How Cold Dark Winter Days Help You Sleep

Alright so it’s the middle of winter. Well maybe not the exact middle but where we are in Kelowna the daylight hours are shorter and the mercury doesn’t climb as much as other times of the year. And so with these longer colder days you’ll see fewer people outside doing activity. And more people plopped down in front of the big screen watching awards shows, movies or sports. We’ve even found new conditions (S.A.D., isn’t it?) to justify the need to get away from somewhere warm in the middle of winter.

Top 5 Reasons the Canucks Made You Fat

If you’re from BC you can’t help but be drawn into the NHL playoffs.

The is the furthest the Canucks have advanced in 17 years. And it’s the only time they’ve gone this far as the President’s Cup Trophy winners ensuring top seeding throughout.

But while making it to the finals has been good for local pub sales and water cooler talk at the office, this long playoff run hasn’t been good for everyone.

Who hasn’t it been good for?

Well, you of course.

Here’re the Top 5 Reasons the Canucks Made You Fat.

Reason #1 – More Time in Front of the TV

Imagine if the Canucks hadn’t made the playoffs at all. There would be between 16 and 28 games you wouldn’t be sitting on your gradually growing backside.

And not just up to 28 games but many with overtime and double overtime. We’re talking about an extra 3-4 hours every couple of nights of plopping down on the sofa to watch other people exerise.

Don’t believe me?

Take a trip to Alberta, as I did last weekend. Those are some fit people that don’t ever have to worry about watching a playoff game.

Reason #2 – Poorer Quality Nutrition

Have you gone out to watch any of the games? Or if you watch them at home, do you have certain foods at-the-ready to make the experience all the more enjoyable?

Of course you do.

Things like spinach salad, with avocados, goat cheese, tomatoes, olives and a light balsamic dressing. And lightly drilled salmon with some asparagus on the side. While washing it all down with a glass a water.

Who doesn’t start thinking playoff hockey after mentioning these foods, right?

Pubs can’t keep them in stock.

Unfortunately, our food selections during a game typically revolve around deep fried, processed, high fat, high sugar, empty nutrition food choices.

But it gets worse with reason #3.

Reason #3 – Mid Week Alcohol

Some workplaces meet up for Friday Beer.  Or others might get together for a birthday or other event.

But during the playoffs it’s not uncommon for pubs to be full on Monday and Wednesday for game nights. And not only are you getting extra calories and zero nutrition but you are also losing a lot of your water. Kind of hard to make great gains in the gym with dehydrated muscles.

And after the Canucks score in OT you’re probably well past your usual bedtime which leads to the next problem.

Reason #4 – Disrupted Sleep 

If you’re in the Year Long Training Program you’ve received my report on Sleep and Fat Loss. If not, let me know and I can get you set up.

The point is that being sleep deprived correlates with higher levels of bodyfat. A couple of key hormones related to sleep and our nutritional habits get thrown a curve ball when we stay up later, don’t get enough sleep and go to bed at varying hours.

Plus, how likely are you to hit the gym and set some PBs in the squat rack on less than optimal sleep? Not very likely.

Reason #5 – Better Weather

Quick question…what month sees the most gym memberships sold?

January. Ok, so maybe that was a bit easy.

But which months are typically the slowest at gyms? The summer months.

And the longer the Canucks are in the playoffs the warmer the weather gets. And the less likely people are to stay indoors when they could be outdoors doing something active.

I realize this last point is a bit of a stretch but I needed something to round out the 5. So cut me some slack, alright? 🙂

Saving Grace?

So is there anything that can be done to both support the Canucks and not only avoid the extra 10-15 playoff pounds but actually lose 5-10?

There is and it’s our Group Fitness Training.

This program is a short, efficient and intense workout that you can complete between 2 and 5 days per week when the games are never on.

Plus you get to do all the training outdoors as the weather gets nicer.

Lastly, you won’t feel any guilt at all as cheer the Canucks all the way to the Cup.

Want details? Here you go.

Dates: June 6- June 30
Times: 6 am or 930 am
Location: Parkinson Rec Centre fields
Investment:
$149 for 2d/week (Tues/Thurs)
$199 for 3d/week (Mon/Wed/Fri)
$249 for 5 d/week (Mon-Fri) best value

Call today to reserve your spot.

Chris                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  okanaganpeakperformance.com ‘always moving forward’

ps…after every Canucks game I will do 10 Turkish get ups for every goal they score at the Group Fitness Training 

 

5 Things I Can Do Better to Improve My Health & Performance

If you’re serious about your health and performance than you want to know that you’re doing the best you can with your efforts. And if you’re not where you’d like to be weight-wise, performance-wise or in terms of your rehab than there are probably some things you could be doing a better job of. And if you are having some success in these areas than you are probably motivated to see what else you could do to ramp up your results even more.

I’ll be honest…I know I could do more personally. A while back I stated some of my goals. A few of them included hitting targeted strength measures, improved fitness levels and a specific scale weight.

And while I’m on track to hit my goals I know I could be further along. I know I maybe under-estimated myself by selecting goals I knew I had a pretty good chance of attaining.

There’s not a problem in doing that. But we want to make sure we are giving our best effort and setting new goals if necessary.

So while I’ll probably wait until I realize the current goals I’ve set  until I pick new ones there are a few things I know I can improve on until then. With that in mind here are 5 Things I Can Do Better to Improve My Health & Performance.

1. Improved sleep – I need 8 hours of sleep a night. Not 8 hours of bedtime on my computer, reading or but 8 actual hours of sleep. I need to make sure that I get as many of these 8 before midnight as possible. Which is why I opt to play games which get me tired like Sudoku medium. It tires the brain and your body will naturally sleep to revitalize your mind. And I need to make sure to be as consistent with my time to bed and time to rise as  possible.

2. More soft tissue work – Every workout should begin with some foam rolling. It doesn’t have to be lots of time and the more I do of it the less time is necessary. But sometimes I’m a little short on time for training and this is what gets cut from the program. I need to remind myself how effective foam rolling is, how this restores alignment and posture, how it helps we achieve optimal technique on my lifts and allows me to recover more quickly between workouts.

3. Less sugar – For a while there I was in the habit of writing down the sugar content of everything I ate. Well not really everything but if it came in a package I was jotting in down. And this good because as you get your insulin under control your fat burning goes way up. I’ve got to get back to doing this again.

4. Drink more water – Sometimes I’ll get busy writing programs or running errands and won’t drink as much water as I should. As soon as you’re 2% dehydrated performance drops off. Plus many of your muscle building and fat burning enzymes are hydrolytic and require water. There are a number more good reasons to drink more water and I know I have to increase my intake.

5. Watch out for compensations – As soon as we compensate we put stress on the body where it shouldn’t be. And we then take longer to recover from this stress. Plus the longer we get away with our compensations the harder they are to undo and the greater the chance of injury. Specifically I need to watch that I am maintaining a neutral lumbar spine on all of my lifts. Only the weight should move and the rest of the trunk should be steady.

Well there are the areas I think I can do better in.

What about you? Where can you improve? Does it have to do with rest, training, nutrition or something else altogether? In the comments section tell me what you want to focus on and I’ll reply to help you out.

Chris                                                                                                                                                                                                             okanaganpeakperformance.com ‘always moving forward’

Enjoying Thanksgiving Can Work to Your Advantage

Hi there: Hope you’re doing well. This has been a great week. You want to know why? I think it’s because I’ve had great perspective lately. I’ve been really thankful for the good things in my life while not worrying so much about the distractions that can sometimes get us down. It might be the Thanksgiving weekend that has me in this kind of mood but it definitely ties in to your weight loss or performance goals.

‘Ok, hold on a sec’, you’re probably saying. ‘Did he just say Thanksgiving and weight loss goals in the same sentence.’ Absolutely I did. And here’s what I mean by it.

Our bodies go through both positive and negative stress. The positive stress is called eustress. Sound familiar? Unfortunately for most people this may be the first time they’ve ever heard of this word. And that says a lot if the positive aspect of stress is so foreign to us we don’t even recognize the word for it.

So it would make sense then that the balance tends to be skewed towards the negative end of the stress spectrum.

But first we should identify a couple of hormones involved with the stress response. These are cortisol and adrenaline.

Adrenaline is the hormone associated with ‘fight or flight’  and results in increased heart rate, elevated blood pressure and boosts energy supplies. We are hard-wired for this response to always be at the ready and thus available to protect and keep us safe.

Cortisol is another stress hormone and increases sugar (glucose) in the bloodstream, enhances your brain’s use of glucose and increases the availability of substances that repair tissues.  It also alters immune system responses and suppresses the digestive system, the reproductive system and growth processes.

Let’s take a quick look at how stress affects digestion, recovery and training.

1. When stress triggers the ‘fight or fligt’ response the body reacts by shutting down digestion. It diverts blood away from the digestive tract to where it’s needed for survival. The muscular contractions of digestion are also put on hold because we may need to do something physical during this stressful event. Lastly, hydration and enzymes normally secreted into the gastrointestinal tract are blocked during stress.

2. With training we can see that we will already have an elevated heart rate due to stress which makes normal training loads feel heavier and recovery times between sets seem inadequate. As our focus is on whatever is causing the stressful episode the ability to perform technical skills will be diminished. The upside, if there is one, is the increased blood flow to skeletal muscles may assist non-technical lifting.

3. When we are stressed our sleep will be impaired as well. Looking back to the ‘fight or flight’ response this puts our bodies at a state of readiness. All systems are put on alert and with increased heart rate, blood flow and breathing rate it’s no wonder we don’t sleep well when we’re stressed.

So what can you do about it? Here’s a list of 5 things to reduce stress, increase digestion, improve your workouts and get better sleep.

1. When you don’t think you have time for a break, take one. Going non-stop when you’re stressed leads to poorer quality work, frustration and fatigue.

2. Focus on what you can control and ignore the rest. Recognize those things that are within your control and prioritize them. This way you’ll get the most meaningful tasks dealt with right away.

3. Look for the path of least resistance. This may mean working with those that support you rather than the ones who are usually negative and trying to bring you down.

4. Be a little bit selfish. I said a little bit. And by this I mean you have to take time for yourself. Time to workout. Time to relax and unwind. Your family and friends will understand and support you.

5. Be thankful. It’s surprising how your outlook will change and how much better you’ll feel when you take some time to  appreciate the good things you have in your like. The next thing to do is to put time and effort into those things that make your life better.

Most of the time all we hear about it is how many workouts, meals and hours of sleep we are getting. I talk of intense, consistent efforts on all fronts. Make sure to balance out the stresses in your life for improved training, digestion and rest.

Have a great weekend.

Chris                                                                                                                                                                                                                           okanaganpeakperformance.com ‘always moving forward’