Every once in awhile, I will hear a comment from someone at the gym about how they are not feeling like themselves. It is usually just meant to be a self observation and usually sounds like “my joints are achey,” “I am feeling tired all the time,” or “I can’t get myself moving.” Usually once I talk with them, we can nail the root cause down to 1 of 3 things that have a strong affect on our recovery, mood, and attitude.
One disclaimer – I am assuming that you are eating fairly well and not drinking like crazy which I know is a bold assumption to make during the summer! If your nutrition is off or you are consuming more alcohol than normal, I would start there as both of them can wreak havoc on your body. If those things are in check, here are 3 things to look into that have a surprisingly strong affect on you.
- Hydration – DO: Drink 1/2 your bodyweight in ounces. Hydration has a surprisingly strong affect on recovery and performance. If you are 2% (of your bodyweight) dehydrated, you will have a noticeable drop in how you can perform. Also, being dehydrated leads to an increase of cortisol in the body (especially during your workouts) which can compete with the receptors needed for muscle growth and recovery, slowing it down completely. This means that hydration has an affect on your performance when working out as well as the results you gain from the workout. This is why people who are dehydrated complain about not feeling like themselves – being dehydrated literally makes you perform worse during and after your workout.
- Sleep – DO: Set a bedtime and wake-up time. Sleep is always a tricky one to talk about. Many aspects of our lives are competing with our time to sleep – work, working out, kids, and it often can feel like there aren’t enough hours in a day. It feels easy to pull time from sleep because we aren’t actively doing anything when we are sleeping, but it is something that has a cost down the line. Sleep tends to operate like a bank, meaning when you get 4 hour of sleep one night, your body is going to need to 10 hours now the next (instead of it resetting everyday). Also, sleep has an affect on our hormones that regulate hunger and our insulin response which can lead to negative affects on our bodyweight.
The sleep recommendation from the national sleep institute is 7-9 hours This is quite a range but most people have an idea if they are the people who need closer to 9 or the people who can thrive on 7. The one thing to take away from the 7-9 recommendation is that getting below 7 for a long period of time is going to have a negative affect on your recovery, how you feel, and how you can perform. The best way to start to watch your hours of sleep is to set up a bed time and a wake up time each day (the goal is for them to be 7 and a half hours apart – we are assuming it will take 30 mins to get ready for bed and fall asleep). Also, if you are getting under the number – don’t feel guilty if you have a day where you “sleep-in.” Your body would prefer getting 7-9 hours every night but if you are short, having a day to make-up some of that time is super beneficial to your body.
- Stress – DO: Acknowledge it and work on what you can. The last piece of the puzzle is stress. I struggled with what the action point should be for this one because stress is different for everyone and what they can do to work on it will vary from person to person. Also, we all get stressed out by different things and to different levels. For our cause here – performance and mood, it is important to be able to recognize that stress can have a huge affect on those things. If you are going through a stressful time and everything else is lined up (nutrition, sleep, hydration), stress alone is enough to really mess with our mind and body and this can show itself in a myriad of ways – headaches, tight muscles, chest pain, anxiety, depression, fatigue. Stress can have an amazing affect on our body!
If you are dealing with a lot of stress, try to slow down and pinpoint the factors that are causing you stress. Then separate them into two piles – things you can control and things that you can’t. Try to let go (as much as possible) of the things you can’t control and make a plan to tackle the things you can. Sometimes just by having a plan and working on the things you can control, you can feel in power of the situation. Also, everyone will always have some kind of stress on their plate at all time so by working to remove the things you can control you may be able to get the level of stress back to something you feel in control of.
Even if you are feeling good day to day – these are 3 actionable areas you can work to improve your health and wellness. While they may feel obvious, a lot of times people miss these things when they are in the thick of life and have a lot going on. I would suggest everyone takes 2 mins to do an audit of their hydration, sleep, and stress once a week to see if they can make any small improvements to any of them.