“Sleep is quite possibly one of the most essential, yet overlooked aspects to maintaining steady performance over long periods of time. I once believed that 6 hours was acceptable, but in reality, there is less than 1% of the population who functions optimally sleeping less than 7-8 hours a night. Anything less than 8, and especially less than 6 hours a night decreases our time to exhaustion by 10-30 percent, and our aerobic and strength output decreases significantly. Lack of sleep also decreases our ability to store memories, and improve on motor skills. Lack of sleep throws off the connection between our prefrontal cortex (center for logical thinking) and amygdala (control for flight or flight), which reduces our ability to process emotions and handle stressful situations with a calm, and clear head. Another interesting observation is that countries, where people are most willing to sacrifice sleep for success, are also the same countries that have the highest rates of mental and physical disorders. Do yourself a favor and prioritize sleep!
Schedule rest phases into your training, I personally used to struggle with reducing the intensity of my training. However, a rest or deload phase does not mean that you stop training, just alter your approach. I slow the pace of my workouts and incorporate a lot more stretching and mobility into my deload weeks. These phases should also be taken into consideration in all aspects of life as we cannot operate at a high-level year-round. Even though many of us will attempt to overwork ourselves, this will only reduce our ability to sustain high levels of performance for long periods of time. This is why athletes have off-seasons, it provides them time to recover from injuries, improve on weaker aspects of their game, and mentally rest from high energy and high paced of life. Think about “rest” phases in your training, work, and personal life.
Clear goals are essential to long-term success in the gym, or any aspect of life. Without an understanding of where we are going, it is near impossible to obtain anything type of real or sustainable success. First, understand your long-term goals, in the next 3-5 years, in your ideal/realistic life, where do you want to be living, what are you doing for your career, what kind of health are you in, what does your family life look like? Once you have a clear picture of your ideal life, then set short-term goals that align with your long-term goals, what can you accomplish in the next 6-12 months that will take you one or two steps closer to your long-term goals. Finally, this is where one of our most essential aspects of a productive life comes into play, our daily routines and habits. Once we understand our long-term and short-term goals we must set our daily habits and routines in alignment with those goals.
Start focusing on how you breathe. It is easy to overlook breathing as an essential aspect of peak performance, breathing is a function that our body controls unconsciously and that we can also consciously control. Through different breathing techniques, we can activate the sympathetic nervous system to elevate our alertness and allow us to focus more intently on a task in front of us. We can also utilize breathing to tap into the parasympathetic nervous system, which will calm us down, reduce anxiety, and lower our blood pressure. Focused breathing during our workouts, during an athletic competition, or before an important meeting or conversation can help regulate our mind and body so we are ready to perform at our best in every situation. The way we breathe can tap into our own source of medicine.
A detox/cleanse can be from many things, whatever our body and mind require. A few examples would be caffeine, alcohol, social media, even utilizing fasting as a type of cleanse. When we become dependent on a substance or stimulant of any type, our body will require more and more to satisfy our needs, but our bodies are always in search of homeostasis, meaning we will have an equal reaction in the opposite direction turning those addictive highs into crashing lows. Knowing what to detox from, and when is something we each have to decide on our own, but many of us already know what aspects in life have an unhealthy hold on us.