Here is a topic near and dear to my heart, an important facet of health that I’ve been working on as much as my diet and exercise.
The single most important aspect of your training development outside of the actual exercise is your ability to get good sleep. Even the important factor of your diet serves in large part your ability to effectively sleep, and its positive effects on your health will be limited if you aren’t sleeping well.
Unless you’re caring for a newborn child (during that period, they’re often going to wake up overnight and there’s little you can do about that), those choices were to a substantial degree probably avoidable. Even being compelled to keep a complicated, troublesome schedule due to career or family concerns is to some degree a preventable product of life choices. We often choose other priorities over sleep and don’t realize what a mistake that is.
But I digress, and that’s a whole other topic. Barring such extenuating circumstances, most people have ample opportunity to get good sleep every night, and they just don’t. And they may not be fully aware of what else they do aside from just staying awake to deny themselves of that opportunity to sleep….
Right now I’m basically exercising three times a day. No, these are not all hard workouts. I would have dropped dead by now if so. Or be incredibly ripped. Who knows.
For example, on weekends:
Morning – Take a 2-3 mile run, or a long walk of probably a couple miles. Either option gives sun exposure in reasonable temperatures, and some light to decent calorie burning exercise. If I have any step goals, this gets me a good way there. Any extended walking would last about 45 minutes, and is a thin substitute for the everyday walking in Chicago. Since I’m not seriously training for races right now, I play this by feel. I run that day if running feels good, and walk that day if it probably doesn’t.
Afternoon – In the blazing hot Vegas sun, probably during a brief work-from-home break, go for a brief run around the neighborhood. This is only a few blocks, and less than a mile, all pretty close to my home just in case I absolutely have to stop for some reason. I run about 3/4 of a mile, and come back inside. it takes about 7-8 minutes. That’s pretty much all you can reasonably do in 100 degrees Fahrenheit without hurting yourself. This is more of an anti-cold-shower mid-day pick me up than serious training. But it augments your training volume.
Evening – Towards the end of the day, around 7pm, I go to the gym and get some swolework. Do my 20 minute workout. Head home.
Where most people really need to work on themselves is in:
The Kitchen. The oft cited, never sourced adage is that 80% of your body comp depends on your diet, and abs are made in the kitchen. Debate the stats all you want but this is the truth. You can’t outwork a sub-optimal diet.
The Bedroom. (I don’t mean hanky panky either.) People need to get better sleep. Even well-trained athletes struggle to get consistent, high quality sleep. A lack of high quality sleep produces a snowball effect of stress, hormonal deprivation, and general fatigue that follows you wherever you go.
Their own minds. We all have our motivations, insecurities, anxieties, that drive us or hold us back. For many people, whatever they think they’re going to find in the gym or in therapy/medication is something they need to reconcile within themselves. It can be a general insecurity, something bad from the past, etc.
This is a fundamental issue I discovered with the use of personal training, even as I was studying to become a CPT. For the vast majority of people I could end up working with, I could only address the at-best ancillary concern of developing a workout program. I could not address let alone solve the underlying problems behind why they felt they needed it. And I cannot reconcile the salesman’s mindset to take their money because those underlying problems ultimately don’t matter as much as the need to train.
This is not totally the industry’s fault by any means. Trainers are just trying to earn a living. You paying for personal training pays their bills. Don’t take this as a fundamental indictment of personal trainers. Hell, all trainers are battling the exact same challenges I just listed. These needs and challenges are just as true for CPTs.
I have not had a whole lot to say in the past month, because there hasn’t been much to add to what others have told you.
After the COVID-19 outbreak problem took off across the world, and two NBA basketball players were found to be ill with the virus, shutdowns and lockdowns quickly followed. Within a couple of weeks, almost everyone in the Western world was ordered to stay at home and only travel for essential reasons, while most businesses were ordered to shut down. Events, including races, were cancelled.
It will be weeks, possibly months, before we can resume what we previously knew as normal activity. Currently, Nevada and most states are being told that the earliest anything may re-open is May 1, 2020, and even that could be postponed if needed.
Meanwhile, I personally was fortunate enough to keep my job remotely with no change to my compensation. So the biggest change to my life is that I have nowhere I need to go. Yes, Vancouver 2020 was cancelled, as were basically every road race before the summer.
With no need to train before Victoria 2020 marathon training this summer, I decided to shut down non-essential training myself after Vancouver 2020 was cancelled. At first, I ran as little as twice a week, and maybe went on a walk or two. I ran if I felt like it, but that’s it.
Now I’m running a bit more regularly, albeit not terribly far, and certainly not all that hard. I’m following Budd Coates’ basic 14 day training cycles as outlined in Running On Air, which has me currently running 2-3 miles, maybe one longer run, about 4-5 times per week.
While Vegas temperatures are currently still reasonable, I’m going out for 20-30 minute runs (and possibly some extra walking) during the late afternoon following the workday. I take longer walks or runs on neighborhood trails at least once during the weekend. Once the desert heat kicks in for summer, I’ll need to switch to early morning runs.
I’m of course eating lighter and as clean as reasonably possible. Not having a convenient option to go to a restaurant or grab something quick at a store, plus having all day at a home that thankfully is well stocked with cooking supplies, makes cooking and eating at home the most suitable option almost every time.
The flip side is, by staying at home all day, I get far less natural physical activity, meaning fewer calories burned… even if I get myself to exercise or go out for a run. I burn maybe 2300-2400 calories in a day even if I did work out, or made some maniacal effort to stay active like get up and do squats or push ups every hour.
Generally I work around this by:
Intermittent fasting, aka skipping breakfast.
Eating a lighter lunch
Eating only two official meals a day, the lunch and dinner before bed
In the past few weeks I have lost about 6 pounds of fat, whereas in previous, busier months I had struggled to lose any fat at all. I had a goal for Vancouver 2020 to get down to 160-165 pounds before May (I weighed as much as 185 this winter). Previously I had stalled around 178-180 lbs at my best, but have since gotten to around 174-175 lbs (and hopefully falling). The irony is that, now that I’m not marathon training, I might actually get to 165 before May.
While most people in the US are getting comfy and eating a lot of junk food during lockdown, I decided to really clean up my diet and eat right as much as possible. Even with a minimum of exercise, it has paid off, plus generally I feel better.
Part of feeling better also is that, as others’ anxiety has gone up… my stress has gone substantially down. As mentioned, I still (remotely) have my day job, meaning I’m not worried about income and paying bills. I realize compared to others that this is currently a luxury.
That said, I have to work weekdays, and my job has pivoted to where I do quite a bit of day to day work and regular web conferencing, plus larger ongoing projects. So there’s a lot to do. However, being at home, not having to commute… it’s had a calming effect on my life.
Plus, (though I still need to eventually sit for the NASM exam) I had just finished a very stressful CPT training program (right before COVID really blew up), and truth be told it was very hard for me to handle plus work plus marathon training plus home and family concerns over the final month. I actually reached my breaking point towards the final two weeks, and though the end of the program was a relief… the lockdown in itself was almost an added level of relief by eliminating work and commute related stress. Today is a total contrast to what my life was like in February. I went from everything hitting me at once to now being practically forced to do as little as possible.
With my basic needs met (my family has done a good job securing needed food and supplies), I actually feel pretty comfortable with life right now. My biggest concern aside from work needs is to make sure I eat healthy and get enough exercise to maintain some fitness and not gain needless weight.
I’m not going to join the train on any public service announcements regarding social distancing or lockdown etiquette. We all know where we’re at and I’m not going to add any new information. We know it’s going to be a while before live races are a possibility.
I for one am not interested in virtual races. That’s fine if it keeps you motivated, but I also feel like this forced hibernation is an opportunity in its own right to relax, regenerate and reflect. I want to use the time accordingly rather than fish for more ways to keep me occupied. We’ll have the chance to run races eventually.
Eventually I may offer some feedback on effective training ideas for runners while in lockdown. But for now, I’m going to make the most of our collective hibernation.
Coronaviruses are in general quite common. You may actually get one once every year or two. However, we’re experiencing mass panic over the current novel coronavirus strain, which has killed a few thousand people in China among the many thousands infected, and sent entire nations into a panic.
There are a handful of truths regarding this novel coronavirus:
Most of the people who contract the worst form of the novel coronavirus will make a full recovery without any required medical intervention, just like most people who get a common cold or the flu.
The death rate of the novel coronavirus is actually quite low. About 1-2% of people who have reportedly tested positive for it have died from it, and almost all of the deaths have been in China and Italy, where tens of thousands (again, nearly all known cases) have been diagnosed. Virtually all of the people who have died from the novel coronavirus either have seriously compromised immune systems or live in abjectly unsanitary conditions (and that’s assuming all stats are accurate, which is highly questionable). Sure, I’d be worried about the health of either population, but the vast majority of those reading this are in a much better situation.
Regardless of anything anyone does, there’s little people can do to prevent its overall spread, quarantines or not. It’s an airborne virus, and a common type of virus at that. It’s like trying to eradicate or quarantine the flu or common cold. Good luck.
The current quarantines are more a product of systemic panic than necessity.
Other governments are semi-thoughtlessly following in kind with their own over-reaching quarantines, not realizing they’re parroting a needless overreaction from a totalitarian government. This never minds major events that have elected to cancel said events in response to the hysteria. In most cases, they’re making a panic-driven mistake.
All of this said, this novel coronavirus strain is worth concern, the same way any major flu strain or flu season is worth concern.
As always, there are things you can and should do to safeguard yourself from illness and give your body the best chance to flush and resist that illness should it find its way into your system.
However, I have useful advice beyond the standard “wash your hands, take your vitamin C, avoid crowds, etc”. Here are some tips for you to help your body and immune system withstand any potential exposure to any illness, not to mention the novel coronavirus.
So a lot of people make themselves work out early in the morning because it’s easier to find time then to work than it is to work out towards the end of the day. It’s less likely something will come along to derail your workout, whether circumstance or flagging motivation following a busy day.
I will note that in my long fitness history I’ve tried both working out very early and working out in the evening. I personally find there’s a lot I need to do to prepare for and get to work each morning, and I’m not usually clear headed enough to efficiently do most morning workouts either way. Others’ mileage will obviously vary.
The reason I don’t just set the alarm and wake up earlier is because the negative effect of losing sleep is greater than the positive effect of a morning workout, even if bio-rhythmically I come correct and learn to wake up earlier (and I already wake up naturally around 6am).
What happens if the previous night runs long or I otherwise have trouble getting to sleep? Now I spend the following day sleep deprived, along with all the negative hormonal effects of not getting enough sleep. The resulting cortisol and loss of growth/recovery hormones is actually a key behind lacking training results, faster aging, aging in general, not to mention illness and other psychological/health problems.
It’s more worth it to me to fit a workout in after work during the early evening, and it helps that I’ve developed the discipline to consistently do those workouts. Now and then I am able to get in a productive 6am workout after having slept well, but I realize that cannot be a daily thing with my current schedule and lifestyle… plus some workouts are too long for 6am to be a sufficient starting time.
I’m learning a borderline unfathomable amount of information from my Personal Trainer course, and a lot of it applies just as well to running as it does to general strength training.
It’s hard to get into much of what I’m learning right now, especially given I’m studying for new material through the accelerated program and I need to focus on processing all that information on top of still trying to ingrain the previous information.
One thing that sits with me is the NASM structure to training progression known as the OPT model. The basic premise is that, before you should work on maximizing strength and athleticism, you first need to work on and improve the stabilization of your existing muscle systems.
The idea is that your muscles have some natural imbalances, and jumping right into swolework or athletic drills not only can risk injury but also further solidify and thus complicate those imbalances.
Someone with an incredible amount of strength or athletic development might actually be surprisingly weak in a key core muscle group, and if this person has recurring injury or performance problems that weakness could be a key factor in their problems. It may seem like a step back to work solely on stabilization basics, but in reality improvement here avoids bigger, longer setbacks in more serious situations.
Going back to running… even prior to this training, I could watch someone run for a few moments and immediately point out what kind of injury problems they either have dealt with or will deal with. I could see mechanically what was limiting them.