My Top Sleep Hacks

Sleep hacks I’ve used to get great sleep and get better fitness results

When it comes to achieving your fitness goals, sleep might be the most important factor. Without high quality sleep, you’ll be limiting any progress you can make. Sleep is crucial for muscle building, performance, fat loss, and other areas of fitness.

Grounding

What is grounding? The answer is in the name itself. Grounding is walking around barefooted on a natural surface like grass and mud. Barefoot walking has a very calming effect. If you’ve ever had a foot massage, you’ll experience the same feeling of relaxation when grounding yourself. From my experience, most of the time that I ground myself I’m able to fall asleep faster and I wake up less frequently. Do you ever wonder why you sleep so well when you go to the beach? It’s because you ground yourself when you walk on sand.

Beside getting great sleep, grounding has numerous health benefits like reduced inflammation, better mood, and faster injury recovery. One of the best times to ground yourself is after a workout. It’ll calm your nervous system.

Delta Wave Music

Nowadays I like to experience complete silence during the last hour before going to sleep. At some point I listened to Delta Wave Music and even meditated to it before sleeping. The idea behind it is throughout the day our brains are in different ways, depending on what we’re doing. When we’re fully awake our brains are in the beta wave. When we’re relaxed we’re in the alpha brain wave. When we’re drifting into sleep or waking up , we’re in the theta brain wave. When we’re in deep sleep, we’re in the delta brain wave. By listening to delta wave music, I’d fall asleep easier and drift into deep sleep. I stopped listening to delta wave music because I didn’t want to become reliant on it. I’d reccomend it if you find yourself desperate for quality sleep.

Boost Seratonin

It’s commonly known that melatonin is the brain chemical that helps you sleep better at night. You can do things to directly boost your melatonin or you can boost your nightly melatonin productions by boosting your seratonin during the day. The easiest way to boost seratonin is through natural light exposure, especially from the Sun. If it’s a cloudy day, you can still get more natural light exposure spending time outside than you would indoors.

Photo by Aldo Picaso from Pexels

Explanation of the different brain waves: https://nhahealth.com/brainwaves-the-language/

Scientific journal on Grounding: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3265077/

The role of Seratonin in sleep quality: https://thebrain.mcgill.ca/flash/d/d_11/d_11_m/d_11_m_cyc/d_11_m_cyc.html

The Secret To Elite Workout Recovery!

The post is about my first time in the sauna and why you should add it to your health and fitness routine.

I’ve never thought about using a sauna until recently. I always saw it as nonsense that wouldn’t provide any significant benefit to my health and fitness. It wasn’t until I had a conversation with a fellow lifter that I started to consider.

We were having a small conversation about our respective workouts. As we were talking, he mentions that he’s about to hit the sauna. As I have a curious response, he tells me that it helps him with workout recovery. We talk a little longer and go our separate ways.

Now I start thinking about the sauna. This guy at my gym who has impressive strength says the sauna helps him with workout recovery. Maybe he’s on to something. My mind starts flashing with thoughts. I suddenly remember listening to Joe Rogan talk on his Podcast about how the sauna has helped him physically. I don’t remember the details of what he said but just that it has helped him a lot. I went from curious to attentive. I decide to look up the benefits of the sauna.

What I find propels me to decide to use the sauna. I found all kinds of benefits in my research like the increase of HGH, increased muscle endurance, stress reduction, and better sleep. I even found one page that called the sauna a performance enhancement drug. If sitting in a hot ass room can help me achieve my goals at a faster rate, I have to give it a try.

Sauna Time

The day to use the sauna has arrived ! I do an intense total body workout and head to the locker room to. After a quick shower, I walk towards the sauna room. The moment I open the door, I feel intense heat approaching my face. The room is so hot. My goal is to sit in the sauna for 20 minutes but I have my doubts. I’ve never experienced anything like this! So much heat concentrated in one room. After 5-7 minutes, I start to get a little comfortable with the heat. It’s still extremely hot but my body has adapted. As I keep sitting in the room, I start sweating profusely. I can’t remember the last time I’ve sweated this much and I’m someone who enjoys doing outdoor workouts during the summer.

After 20 minutes of intense heat and sweating, I’m ready to leave the sauna. What I noticed as I was leaving surprised me. The joints that have been aching for the previous week suddenly felt great. They felt like I haven’t been beating them up with heavy weights and intense workouts. Maybe the workout recovery stuff was true about saunas. After I clean myself off and drink a ton of water, I leave the gym.

The next day I feel great! I feel mentally and physically revitalized. I think a big reason is I slept great the night before. I guess sauna use is great for sleep quality. As a result, I have greater excitement for my next workout and for the next time I use the sauna.

Sauna Tips

Drink a lot of water: If you use the sauna, I recommend drinking water before and after using it. You need to replace all the water you lose from sweating in the sauna. I learned this the hard way on my 2nd sauna day. I felt very lightheaded on my second sauna day because I didn’t drink enough water before entering the room. I was so focused on the benefits of the sauna that I ignored the tips and warnings that were shared. Drink more water than you normally would if you’re using the sauna after a workout.

In addition to drinking water, make sure you get electrolytes. I prefer Propel over Gatorade since there’s less sugar. You can also get electrolytes from foods like bananas, spinach; potatoes, and more.

Cold Shower: Take a shower that involves you using cold water at some point. Using the sauna will raise your body temperature so you need to find a way to cool down. This is especially important if you want to enjoy the sleep benefits related to sauna use.I’ve heard many times that it’s easier to sleep when your body temperature is low. You should try to take that shower as soon as possible after using the sauna.

This experience has thought me a valuable lesson about being open-minded. Never shrug anything off until you know what it’s all about. Do some research and if you really want to understand something, try to experience it!

Photo by: https://www.pexels.com/@pixabay

 

Winners Do Cardio

If you’re not doing some type of cardio, you’re missing out! It has several health benefits that go beyond burning fat . For me, cardio is also a great way to improve muscle recovery. Cardio gets blood flowing throughout your body. As someone who does a lot of heavy lifting, I can feel the relief in my body after a long cardio session. The blood flow from cardio reduces soreness and the stiffness caused by lifting. I also notice that I don’t recover as well from my workouts if I don’t get enough cardio in my workouts.

Everyone knows the typical ways of doing cardio such as high intensity interval training and jogging. If you’re not a fan of conventional cardio workouts, below are some other ways to get in a satisfying cardio workout.

Alternative Forms of Cardio

Sports: Playing sports is a great way to get in a get cardio workout. Assuming you like the sport, you’ll be having fun as well so it won’t feel like a workout. If you’re not physically ready to play competitive sports, you can do less intense sports activities like shooting some jumpshots or tossing a football with a friend.

Walking: Walking is a natural part of human movement. You can walk around around your neighborhood, walk to the grocery store, to the park, etc. You can treat walking like a means of transportation so it doesn’t feel like a workout.

Bag Work: If you’ve been following this blog, you’d know that I’m a big fan of bag work. It provides a good cardio workout and promotes mental health. Hitting the bag for five minutes won’t make your precious muscles disappear. It might actually support muscle growth since you’ll be generating force when throwing punches.

Random Activities: You treat random activities as cardio as well. Join a dance class, skateboard. Even doing yard work will have a cardiovascular effect on your body. Find an activity that keeps you moving and gets blood pumping in your body. You can treat these as activities rather than workouts.

I made this post to talk about cardio for recovery, so try to avoid any cardio activities that will sabotage your goals. If you have a knee injury, playing a sport probably won’t be the best option for you. Training a marathon won’t help you if your main goal is to build strength and muscle. Do activities that are appropriate to your body and support your goals.

There are several ways to get in a cardio workout that aren’t mentioned in this post. There’s no excuse not to get in some type of cardio. All it takes is some dedication and creativity. What are your favorite forms of cardio?

Photo by https://www.pexels.com/@pixabay

 

Leave The Gym and Come Back Stronger!

This article is about the things I did for a week to help my body recover from lifting.

When it comes to fitness and achieving your goals, you have to focus on longevity. If you’ve been pushing your body through intense workouts, you’ll need to take time off sooner or later. It’s better to have a planned week off than be sidelined due to injury. The week off gives your muscles and joints time to recover. Knowing when to back off is critical for the longevity of your body. After weeks of challenging my body through heavy weights and intense cardio, I decided to take a week away from my workout routine. To make the most of my recovery week, I did things that would benefit my nervous system while still remaining active.

Monday: On Monday I did 3 minutes of leopard crawls to start my day. I enjoy crawls because they stimulate my nervous system. Doing leopard crawls will make you feel like you can fight a lion. They suck while doing them but you’ll feel refreshed afterwards. Try it out if you don’t believe me. In the evening I played pick up basketball with my friends.

Tuesday: I woke up and did 3 minutes of leopard crawls just like the day before. In the evening I did 40 minutes of yoga and meditation to relax my body and mind.

Wednesday: By this point, I was itching to get back to the gym. It took me every ounce of disclipline not to go. In the morning, I did 5 minutes of meditation to get my mind right. A healthy mind is important for a healthy body. In the evening, I did 10 minutes of crawling and walked for 15 minutes.

Thursday: I didn’t do anything in the morning. I had to run some errands before going to work. That evening, I did a lot of deep tissue work. I used a pvc pipe and lacrosse ball to loosen up some tight muscles. I prefer these over foam rollers because they go deeper into the muscles. Afterwards, I did 30 minutes of meditation.

Friday: Friday morning, I did a few minutes of meditation to get my mind right for the day. In the evening, I challenged myself by doing a one hour yoga workout. I’m a big advocate of yoga as a compliment to any fitness routine.

Saturday: I did 30 minutes of yoga followed by 30 minutes of meditation. 30 minutes seems long but I’ve been meditating for the best 2 years so I’ve gained  high level of comfort with it. I’m a believer in the benefits meditation can have for your health and fitness because I’ve experienced it. If you want to see why I think every active person should meditate, check out this article Meditate For Faster Results!!   

Sunday: I did some deep tissue work and 20 minutes of light yoga. I followed that up with 30 minutes of meditation. That’s just 1.5 hours of my entire day to greatly improve my health. I’d rather do that than watch a tv show that I’ll barely be paying attention to. I’m looking forward to getting back in the gym with renewed energy.

In addition to these activities, I did contrast showers ( alternating between hot and cold water) and got at least seven hours of sleep every night. It’s important to take time to let your body recover. Even though you may feel fine physically, your nervous system could be fried and you wouldn’t be aware of it. Take a look at an old article on my recovery weeks What Happened When I Took 2 Weeks off of Lifting?.

Photo on <a href=”https://bestrunningshoes.com/”>Best Running</a>

What Happened When I Took 2 Weeks off of Lifting?

This article is about me recent two week break from the gym and what I learned from it.

Last Tuesday was the first day in two weeks that I was in the gym. I originally planned on taking a week off to let my body recover from several weeks of intense training. It ended up lasting longer than I thought. My nervous system needed that time to recover or else I’d be at risk of a possible injury. That time off just fueled my hunger to work out. I wanted to lift weight as bad as a dog wants a piece of steak. During my break from lifting, I didn’t just sit on the couch and watch Netflix. I did things that I believe would help me achieve my fitness goals.

What Did I do?

During my two weeks away, I made sure to be active in other ways. I did a lot of yoga and meditation to help me counteract the stress caused by heavy lifting and overall intense training. My yoga and meditation sessions typically lasted for 45 minutes per session. The yoga also helped me work on my mobility. I also did a lot of leopard crawls to keep my core engaged. Leopard crawls and other contralateral movements are also good for refreshing your nervous system because they engage both sides of your brain at the same time. I really got into these movements when I stumbled upon Tim Anderson’s blog Original Strength.  https://originalstrength.net/

I was also fortunate that the temperatures in my city rose so I could go for walks. I love walking because they promote blood flow though out my body to speed up muscle recovery. Walking also has fat burning benefits, especially when doing them in a fasted state Walk This Way To Burn Fat!. I had one intense training day. I did resisted hill sprints to keep my nervous system awake. The workout involved me doing short hill sprints while wearing a weighted vest. In addition to the weighted vest, I also attached a speed harness to make the workout more intense. It’s a good workout for athletes who want to boost their speed.By having time to regain my energy, I also found other hobbies that I enjoy, such as drawing. The image below is a drawing I made to symbolize strength. Looking at it daily gives me a confidence boost in my physical abilities.

 

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How was My First Day Back in The Gym?

On my first day back, my body felt great. Those two weeks made a world of difference for my recovery. I regret trying to lift heavy on my first day back. I felt great but my nervous system wasn’t prepared to do heavy back squats after two weeks of being so relaxed. I failed on some reps that I normally wouldn’t.  I wish I eased myself in more. When I take only one week off, my body feels recovered and I’m still feel comfortable with the movements. The next couple of workouts went a lot smoother. I  learned my lesson and I’ll never try to go heavy on my first day after a long layoff.

What I Wish I Did During The Two Weeks

Lift: When I say lift, I mean do a workout that’s different than what I do in my typical routine. If I don’t do a sprint session during my “week off “, I like to do a lifting session that’s out of my routine and focuses on stimulating my body rather than going all out. The key is to only do one session during the week or else there’s no purpose of having a recovery week. This is my personal preference but everyone’s body responds differently to different stimuli.

Visualize: If I ever take a long break from lifting again, I’ll utilize visualization. Basically, visualization is when you imagine yourself doing something. The reason it works is because your mind can’t tell the difference between what’s real and imagined. Visualization can be used for anything from fitness to career goals. High level athletes like Conor Mcgregor and Lindsey Vonn have used visualization to help them achieve success. By seeing yourself succeed at a task, you’ll have more confidence when it’s time to perform the task. There’s also been studies showing people being able to increase their strength just through visualization. This makes a lot of sense since the brain is the center of the nervous system.

In general, I don’t regret taking that time off. That time off made me appreciate my workout more. The time off also gave me time to figure out a way to make my workouts more efficient and avoid burning out. I feel like I have a fresh start in my training, while still carrying over the gains I’ve earned. I’m currently experimenting with Isometrics and Contrast training methods for the first time in my life. I plan on sharing how those training methods affect me.

Here’s a link to a study by the Strength Journal which shows the relationship between visualization and strength performance.

https://journals.lww.com/nsca-scj/Abstract/2012/10000/Maximizing_Strength_Training_Performance_Using.10.aspx

Photo credit: <a href=”https://visualhunt.com/author/226aea”>simmons.kevin4208</a&gt; on <a href=”https://bestrunningshoes.com/”>Best Running</a> / <a href=”http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/”&gt; CC BY</a>

Meditate For Faster Results!!

This article is about how meditation has a positive impact on fitness results.

The mind and the body are connected. When the mind is healthy, the body can function at it’s best. Meditating has improved many areas of my life including my fitness. Once I got into the habit of meditating, my sleep improved tremendously. Meditating puts in me in a relaxed state, making it easier to fall asleep. I noticed I go into deeper sleep when I meditate at night.

Meditation and Hormones:

Meditation also reduces the stress hormone, cortisol. Cortisol has an inverse relationship with testosterone. This means the less cortisol you have the more testosterone you can produce in your body. Testosterone is one of the key hormones needed when trying to build strength and muscle.

Sources: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3880087/

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23724462

Reducing Cortisol will also help you with fat loss. Cortisol and belly fat have a positive correlation. This means that the more cortisol you have, the increased chance of you gaining belly fat. This is especially prevalent for women.Maybe that’s why it’s called stress eating.

Source: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/11020091

Meditation and Workout Performance:

Meditation will also benefit you while you’re working out. Meditating teaches you to be present in the moment. When you’re present in you’re work out, you’re more engaged rather than going through the motions. Being present allow for higher quality workouts.

Meditation is also a tool when it comes to build strength. Meditating is a way to refresh your nervous system due to the benefits it provides your brain. Your brain is the center of your nervous system so a healthy brain means a healthy central nervous system. Strength is a function of the nervous system.

How To Meditate:

I usually meditate twice a day, first thing in the morning and right before going to sleep. Meditating is as simple as sitting in complete silence in doing deep belly breaths.  Breathe in through your nose and out through your mouth. The deeper your breaths are the better. I like to breath so deeply that oxygen goes down to my pelvic area.It’s recommended to sit in a similar pose as shown in the image. You can also meditate while sitting on a chair. It’s important to keep an upright posture the entire time.

You don’t have to be a Buddhist or associated with any group to meditate. Anyone can do it. Try meditating for five minutes a day and once you get comfortable you can increase the duration and frequency of your meditation sessions. Simply focus on each breath.