Friday, February 22, 2013

Need Sleep?

 If you want to be better at your chosen sport you might think that you need to squeeze in more hours of training, but that just may not be true.  Sleep is a well known way to improve overall health and performance.  How much sleep do we need ?  If I am having issues sleeping what can I do?  This article I came across can maybe help some of us who like myself has sleeping issues when stressed out either from training or life in general.   You can check out the article here but I have also cut and pasted the whole thing below for future reference.  Maybe using some of these techniques we all can sleep a little better so we don't end up like the guy in the photo below.

Strategies for quality sleep

athlete sleeping
Author:  Michelle Austin, Psychologist, ACT Academy of Sport
Issue: Volume 29 Number 1

Sleep is something we often take for granted.  It is also often the first thing we sacrifice when we are busy, and poor sleep is often the first sign of stress or anxiety. However quality sleep is vital to our health, our well-being, and our performance.

Sleep is also quality recovery. It is essential that athletes normalise their sleeping patterns to maximise the recovery process. Poor quality and quantity of sleep will compromise tissue regeneration, diminish immune and hormonal functioning, decrease effective cognitive processing (thinking), and increase fatigue and pre-disposition to injury.  Research has proven that one or two bad night’s sleep before a competition or major event will not harm performance in any way, provided you are not worried about it.  However prolonged poor sleep may negatively affect performance, recovery and health.

If you have any of the following sleep signs and symptoms you may need to address your sleeping habits:
  • Unrefreshing sleep 
  • Delayed onset – taking more than 15-20 minutes to fall asleep
  • Broken and restless sleep
  • Inability to wake up refreshed in spite of spending longer in bed

How much sleep is enough?

Our society seems to work on the adage that eight hours sleep is the magic answer.  However this may not be the case, especially for athletes.  Sleep deprivation is a very common problem – one that you may not even be aware you have.  If you get less than eight hours sleep a night, if you fall asleep instantly or need an alarm clock to wake up, then you can consider yourself sleep-deprived.  Sleep experts suggest that the average adult needs 7-9 hours sleep a night.  However children and teenagers need more, and athletes need extra sleep to help them recover from the rigours of training.  Even mild sleep deprivation can have a negative effect on athletic performance.  Cumulative sleep deprivation has been shown to reduce cardiovascular performance, to impair information processing (your athlete may fail to recall tactics or struggle to make effective decisions) and to effect emotional stability. Even minimal levels of sleep loss can cause an increased perception of effort. Sleep deprived athletes will feel more fatigued and probably will not be in the type of mental state needed for a top performance.  Athletes should be encouraged to keep a journal to help them work out how much sleep they need each night to perform and feel at their best.  My recommendation for athletes is 10 hours per night sleep.

Strategies to get more sleep

Delayed onset (difficulty falling asleep) is a common problem with athletes, who often find it difficult to switch off at the end of their busy day.  The following strategies are designed to assist athletes and coaches to stop thinking and worrying in bed, and therefore get to sleep much more quickly.
Before Bed:
  • Most of the thinking and worrying we do in bed needs to be done… it just doesn’t need to be done in bed!  Put aside five to 15 minutes during the evening to sit somewhere quietly and let your mind wander through all the thoughts you didn’t have time for during the day.  At the end of the time, write down anything that is still on your mind.
  • If you suffer from muscular twitches when you are trying to sleep, brought on by a build-up of lactic acid in the muscles then stretch, self-massage or walk (keep your heart rate low) before going to bed.
  • Before going to sleep, tell yourself that you are going to have a solid night’s sleep, and that you are going to wake up just before the alarm goes off, feeling alert and refreshed.  Start to create the expectation that you will fall asleep quickly and naturally.
In Bed:
  • Once you have made yourself comfortable, tell yourself that it is time to sleep now, and do not let yourself continue to think about anything except your breathing (see below).
  • Focus on your breathing.  When you are deeply asleep your breathing is relatively slow, shallow, chest breathing, with a small pause between the in-breath and the out-breath.  Try to simulate this type of breathing.  It should feel comfortable.
  • Focus on relaxing your body one muscle group at a time, starting from your toes, and working your way up.
  • Many people stress about not sleeping, which delays sleep!  Say to yourself; “I’ll just lie here and rest.  Peaceful rest is nearly as good as sleep”.  Use the other strategies outlined to get to sleep.
  • Some people fear that if they don’t get enough sleep they will have a breakdown or will perform badly at training, competition or school/work.  Poor performance may result if you have prolonged lack of sleep. However one poor night’s sleep (especially if you are nervous before a major competition) will not detract from performance, provided you don’t stress about it.
  • It is normal to wake up once or twice during the night.  If you do wake up, see it as normal and don’t stress about it.  Be happy that you don’t have to get up yet, and focus on breathing and relaxing to help you go back to sleep.
  • If you cannot stop thinking/worrying, use thought switching.  Replace worrying thoughts with pleasant and relaxing ones.  Or only think about your breathing, or focus on one simple thought to clear your head.
  • Keep a pen and paper by your bed.  That way, if you have a new thought you can write it down to think about tomorrow, and let it go for the night.
  • Use good time-management skills.  Keep lists of things to do and good schedules.  That way you have one less thing to worry about.
  • Remember that a lot of the things we worry about never actually happen.  Try to avoid worrying about things that might happen.
  • When you are happy and stress-free, you sleep better.  Eliminate stress and unhappiness from your life and your sleep will dramatically improve (as will your life!).

Other strategies to promote quality sleep

  • Make sure the environment is right (not too hot, cold, noisy, comfortable bed etc).
  • Make sure you have regular and appropriate sleep patterns.  Sleep routine is very important.  Try to get to bed and get up at similar times every day.  It is very important that your body clock (your body temperature and light-dark cycles) are synchronised with your sleep patterns and your daily routine.
  • Make up for lost sleep as soon as possible.
  • Try to identify and reduce life stress.
  • If you wake up during the night try not to turn on bright lights.
  • Only use your bed for sleep. Don’t watch TV, read, or do work whilst in bed.
  • Avoid caffeine (tea, coffee, chocolate, cola drinks), alcohol and large meals four hours prior to sleep. Small snacks before bed are OK, particularly if you are hungry. A glass of warm milk can sometimes help you feel sleepy.
  • Sleep onset normally occurs as the body temperature starts to drop, so avoid raising your body temperature immediately prior to sleep. This means avoiding exercise and very hot showers/baths just before bed and be careful not to overheat the room in winter or use excessive bedclothes and blankets. You can also try cooling the body in hot weather by having a cool or tepid shower or using an air conditioner.
  • If you cannot get to sleep after 20 minutes, get up and do something boring and unstimulating until you feel sleepy.
  • Minimise (no more than 30 minutes) or discontinue daytime naps.
  • Sleep medications are available, but not highly recommended.  They tend to allow you to fall sleep quickly, but your sleep tends to be disturbed, fragmented and unrefreshing.  Furthermore, prolonged use of sleeping pills brings tolerance – you will need to take more and more of them.
  • Relaxation training and stress management may help relieve sleep problems.
  • Employing good sleep practices will help you to optimise your ability to absorb the rigours of physical activities and workload while ensuring quality performance and recovery.

Sweet dreams!: how to wake up refreshed and get the most out of your day

  • Expect to wake up feeling refreshed and alert.
  • The first thing you should do after waking is have a long, slow stretch in bed, and smile!
  • Have a good morning routine so you can start the day off with no stress.
  • Prepare for your day the night before, so you don’t have to rush in the morning.
  • Get up early.  Enjoy the peace and quiet.  Do something productive or enjoyable.
When you are falling asleep (in stage 1 sleep) your heart rate lowers and your breathing becomes shallow and regular.  This stage of sleep can last from ten seconds to ten minutes.  Your skeletal muscles all relax.  Sometimes your muscles all relax simultaneously, and you might experience a sensation of falling, causing you to awake momentarily with a jolt.

Sleeping is no mean art:  for its sake one must stay awake all day.  Friedrich Nietzsche

Thursday, February 21, 2013

WWII Photos

This past week my uncle has started slowly sharing some of the photos that my Grandfather took while in Europe during WWII.  I did not even know they existed and doubt any of my family did either.    I wish he would just put them all into digital format and send them all out to the rest of the family but he does not seem to be heading in that direction.  He is slowly sharing them one at a time for whatever reason.  Anyways here are 4 of my favorites so far.  Hopefully there will be more to come.

German tank along the roads in Italy.

Grandpa took this image in 1944-45 while stationed in Italy. The men on the train are repatriated Italians returning to fight for the Allies after their defeat while fighting with the Nazis. He couldn't believe these men clinging onto the train to return home.

Lt. Donzel J. (Jack) Headley, at right riding in a gondola in Venice during World War II while he was stationed in Naples.  

Lt. Donzel J. (Jack) Headley, poses on the tail of a shot down German bomber during World War II while he was stationed in Naples.  This photo is my favorite one so far.

Monday, February 18, 2013

Crash and Burn!

I have come to realize that February just blows.  Every year something happens in February that derails my plans, training, and/or life in general.   Think this is the 3rd year in a row something has happened.  If it is true that things happen in threes maybe this will be the last year then.

This year everything was going great with my new approach to training as you can see here.  Solid 52 hour month in January.  That is even with 5 days off during the month.  Then on January 29th I started coughing at work hard enough that my boss sent me home.  Through out the evening and night it got worse enough that I went to the doctor the next day, Walking Fucking Pneumonia!  Needless to say it made me bed ridden for about 4 days for I would be out of breath just going to the bathroom and back.  It took just under 2 weeks for things to turn around to where I was hiking and slow jogging again.  I figured with Red Hot 55K not until Feb 19th it would just be a really long taper and was still planning on making the trip to Moab.

On Monday Feb 11th after my first few 10+mile trail runs in over 10 days the previous weekend I fell on the concrete stairs at work, 5 days before Red Hot.  Needless to say I could not walk without a major limp on my left leg.  What did the doctor say?  Deep bone bruise of course, just below the left knee.  At least it was not a break even though it felt like one.  I cancelled my trip and Moab and took a great big fat 5 miles on the week which I got on Friday morning hiking with Jay making first tracks up Bear Peak after a snow storm the night before.  It was a painful hike on the downhills which lead to me taking Saturday and Sunday off also.

So now it is Monday the 18th and I thought I would test out the leg today to see where it sits.  I did  an easy 6 mile trail run today in Boulder with little pain.  I mean it is still there but it is not a sharp pain anymore like it was.  It is more like when your foot falls asleep and you try walking on it.  Not painful, just weird.  So when my left foot hits the ground (especially on downhills) I get that "foot asleep" feeling from just below my knee to just above my ankle.  Hopefully I am not causing more damage to the area.  My thinking is that by increasing the blood flow maybe it will help the healing process along.

So I guess it is time to start all over, again.  At least it is only February still.

I guess this is enough bitching so lets end with something positive.  Saw this on JT's Facebook page, well worth sharing.  The timing that he posted it was right when I was going through one of my pity parties, perfect. 

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Fun reading: The Problem(s) With Crossfit

 Came across this article here and thought it was worth sharing.


By Hamilton Nolan
First of all let me just say that Crossfit is great. It’s great! Crossfit will get your ass in shape. There’s no question about it. I certainly am not going to say anything that would make thousands of people in “WODKILLA” t-shirts unduly angry. So it must be said, right up front: Crossfit is a very, very good workout thing.

That said, fuck Crossfit.

Let’s talk about the good parts first! Honey before… flies, or whatever they say. As far as workout fads go, Crossfit is absolutely outstanding. Because it features actual hard workouts with real exercises that will in fact get you in great shape, as opposed to, you know, fake kickboxing moves, or a glorified dance party, or an expensive contraption that does poorly what could be achieved better and cheaper elsewhere, or something that requires you to look at John Basedow’s face for an extended period of time. In terms of its actual fitness activities, Crossfit is not a hustle at all. It teaches a good, productive variety of real exercises that produce real power. Its workouts are hardcore. Can’t complain, about that! Great stuff! High five, or whatever the similar term is in the Crossfit™ lingo!

It must be said, though: there are a few things wrong with Crossfit.

1. It is group exercise. I’m biased, because I despise group exercise in a rather venomous and irrational way, but fuck “group exercise.” Workouts should be done alone. The Crossfit workouts themselves are fine as long as the gym is empty and locked and located far away from any Crossfit members.

2. It is generalist. If you’ve ever joined some crappy chain gym for the first time then you’ve probably been approached by some peppy personal trainer who says, “What are your fitness goals?” The vast majority of people just quizzically wrinkle their brows, then gesture to nearest copy of People with Jake Gyllenhaal on the cover. “Look like that guy, I guess,” you grunt. “Get in shape.” If your own fitness goals possess this near-absolute level of vagueness, Crossfit is perfect for you. You do a little of everything. You do some Olympic lifting, and some powerlifting, and some bodyweight stuff, and some cardio stuff, and some running, and some sprinting, and some intervals, and some circuit training, and some whoop do doop. And you will, yes, “get in shape.” You may even get abs to show off at the office pool party.

See, Crossfit does not train you for anything specific—their one brilliant stroke of marketing genius was to declare themselves “The Sport of Fitness,” making it an end in itself. You’re not doing those 1600-meter bear crawls and timed rope climbs to get in shape for anything; you’re doing them to get better at doing them so one day you can go to the Crossfit games and do them alongside a dozen other people in front of a small crowd. The simple counterpoint to Crossfit is that if you are training for something specific, you’ll want to train for that thing, rather than training for “what if you’re caught in a burning building and you have to climb out while carrying someone on your shoulders and then run away at top speed and then throw a kettlebell at an angry dog that chased you,” as Crossfit does.

Do you want to be a powerlifter? Don’t do Crossfit. (As your MAIN WORKOUT, assholes.) Do you want to be a distance runner? Don’t do Crossfit. Do you want to simply add muscle bulk at all costs? Don’t do Crossfit. Are you training for a specific sport which requires you to sharpen very specific physical skills? Don’t do Crossfit. Instead, train for what it is you actually want to achieve. This may seem self-evident. But have you ever tried telling a Crossfit person that Crossfit is not that panacea of all physical training activities? I wouldn’t recommend it, unless you are the type of person who enjoys getting into heated religious discussion with Jehovah’s Witnesses.

3. It is too expensive. A Crossfit gym is like a regular gym but purposely dirtier and with all the expensive exercise machines replaced by ropes and iron balls. (Which is great!) It is far cheaper to outfit a Crossfit gym than a stupid commercial gym. Those savings are… whatever the exact opposite of “passed on to the customer” is. The normal gym closest to my house costs $40 a month. The Crossfit gym closest to my house costs $250 just to do the “on ramp” classes to be allowed to pay an additional $250 per month to take all the Crossfit classes you want. This is one reason that Crossfit tends to attract an outsized proportion of INTENSE POWER YUPPIES. (Which is fine!) Crossfit is too expensive, the end.

4. Their pullups suck. A pullup goes up, and then down. Crossfit likes to teach people to do these god damn “kipping pullups” which involve propelling yourself up and down using hip generated momentum, like some undulating fish flopping from an iron bar. THIS IS NOT A PULLUP. DON’T EVEN GET ME STARTED. Here’s a guy who did 100 “pullups.” Yeah real impressive but those ARE NOT REAL PULLUPS. Yes, they are something. But not pullups.

One of Crossfit’s trademark workouts is “Fran,” which involves doing sets of 21, 15, and 9 pullups. Now: a very, very small percentage of the population is able to do a single set of 21 proper pullups, without stopping. I guarantee you that the majority of NFL football players cannot do this. But since it’s so god damn important to make the numbers in the workout, Crossfit people do 21 kipping pullups instead, and then they’re all, “Yeah, I just did 21 pullups right there.” Yeah, and I can dunk a basketball as long as I’m jumping off a trampoline. Those are not pullups. This reveals a deeper problem: this whole “sport of fitness” mentality means that Crossfit tends to make people more concerned with the number they put up in the workout—the fastest time, the heaviest snatch, or just finishing the more grueling workouts—than with the benefit derived from the workout. In the same way that lifting a lighter weight with perfect form will give you more benefit than lifting a heavier weight with bad form, so it is that focusing on making the numbers can often derail you from receiving the greatest benefit of a workout.

Which brings me to:

5. You will get injured. All these timed workouts and competitive spirit and shit where they write your scores on a board and there is constant peer pressure to push yourself harder? You will get injured. You won’t get an Olympic medal or a Super Bowl trophy for this. Just an injury. Enjoy that.

6. The whole “cult” thing. The standard knock on Crossfit is that it’s a cult, of fitness. It’s not really a cult. (Although everything on this blog is horrifyingly true.) It’s more like church: plenty of nice folks there. But the ones who are too into it are fucking creepy.

7. You can’t trademark working out, you fuckers. Doing burpees or overhead squats or 400 meter runs followed by handstand pushups does not mean you’re “doing Crossfit.” You’re just working out. You don’t own that shit. You bastards.

And wear some fucking regular socks why don’t you.

Other than that Crossfit is A-OK.

About these ads

Sunday, February 3, 2013

January's Numbers

Thought I would go back to posting my monthly totals like I used to a few years ago.  Maybe that will hold me more accountable.  To who would I be more accountable too?  ME....  I don't want to look like a big sissy by posting weak numbers.

Anyways here is the break down for January.  Click on the photo to enlarge it.

Pretty solid for January.  There is also 5 days in there with no running at all.  I would have ended the month with over 270 but ended up getting a lung infection the last week of the year that made me bed ridden for the last 2 days of January and the first few days of Feb.  I think I turned the corner today with the infection though, feeling much better.  Did a 11 mile, 2800ft run up and down Green Mountain today at an easy pace with no issues.  Back to normal training tomorrow for one more week before the taper for Red Hot 55k.

As you might have noticed that I have started including more weights in my training.  Yes I am experimenting with including Crossfit in my training.  I still not sure if or how it will make me a better runner yet but I has made me a better husband, father, and man.  I have noticed that I recover faster from my runs and just overall in a better mood in general which directly effects my family life.  I think there is something to chronic cardio, I think weights just might be balancing things out a little for me.  Why Crossfit?  Well the main reason is that my wife loves it and it is something we do together.  The secondary reason:  I hate lifting at the gym solo and Crossfit makes it fun!  Yes it is fun!  Lifting with a small group of people all shooting for the same goal is fun.  I really don't know how to explain it better than that.  I plan on giving it a couple more months before I decide if it is something that I will keep doing or not.

Next up:  Red Hot 55K......