Remember a time when you could power through a day, a week, a month with as little as 2-3 hours of sleep a day? Remember a time when you’d wake up tired, acknowledge an earlier night would be beneficial and yet by the time night rolls around, you’re out and about ready to rock again?
I certainly remember those days and they were fantastic. The ability to get minimal sleep and wake up ready to socialize and spend time with family is what allowed me to really live the Hong Kong city life to its full extent. However, with my current knowledge of the power of rest on brain and body function, I am wary about being prideful of those times.
As a society, we have come to praise and value those who have the ability to complete as many projects and tasks as possible in as little time as possible. We stay busy because that is what our peers and co-workers are doing. 5-6 hours of sleep have become the norm, and yet our brains and our bodies crave a much longer recovery on a daily basis. Amongst other health practices, getting longer REM and deep sleep, our bodies are able to create more Growth Hormones, the key to maintaining, building and repairing healthy tissue in the brain and other organs.
I’m regrettably guilty of not getting enough rest due to my work schedule and trying to work in social life at the same time. I do have to say I’ve made progress in understanding and listening to my body when it urges me to slow down. Tracking my heart rate variability and sleep data through the Whoop band has been a great addition to this process.
With that said, with the amount of physical activity I put my body through on a regular basis, my sleep coach is consistently telling me to “catch up on sleep to feel better, or to lead to peak performance.” Having peak performance on a regular basis during my strength and conditioning sessions as well as Muay Thai training is a goal that I continue to work towards.
In the last two months, I’ve taken an extended weekend vacation once a month. This also means I am away from Muay Thai or weight training for a few days once a month, focusing on active recovery and movement the days I’m away. One thing I’ve noticed is, despite my fear of having an extra difficult session on my first training session back after a vacation, I surprisingly performed better than I did directly prior to vacation. My mind was focused, I felt strong, and I felt my body ready and willing to learn new techniques all over again.
Feeling that refreshed and strong is a power I strive to have on a regular basis – not only once a month when I return from a few days off. Thus, the process continues.
What changes do I have to make in my lifestyle to ensure my body receives the rest it needs to? When do I need to pull back on the intensity of my sessions even if my brain is saying “no days off”? What kind of foods do I need to add and detract away from my diet? Most days, I know the answers to those questions. However, the execution of said answers is the challenge I continue to face.
How are you receiving rest in your life? What does “REST” mean for you?