I called this episode the 3 Biggest Health Factors because it could have been titled three factors affecting your health, affecting your training results, affecting your quality of life, your energy levels, your sleep, your hormones, or literally EVERY aspect of health and probably your LIFE.
So, I decided on The 3 Biggest Health Factors. It’s a weird title but it’s also the truth.
If you are measuring nothing in regards to your health now, or are only tracking your workouts, I am going to encourage you to start tracking at least one of these factors after this episode.
You know I like to give you actionable takeaways. I am here for the improvement of humans. Not to talk into a microphone under a freaking blanket just to hear my own voice.
Also, these are simple…you’ve likely heard them before. Please, do not dismiss them. Ask yourself how you are doing in each of these areas. It matters. And it makes a difference, like I said, all across all aspects of your health.
Okay, number one (these aren’t in a specific order by the way…)
Get your freaking sleep. You’ve heard you need 8-10 or 7-9 hours. Yes, science shows that generally, humans function optimally with somewhere between 7-10 hours of sleep. Science also shows that women typically require more sleep than men. Which I am all about because I LOVE sleep and definitely lean more towards that 10 hour mark.
I am all about making my waking hours more efficient so I can get the sleep I enjoy having.
BUT it’s not all about the duration of your sleep, rather your QUALITY of sleep. I am sure you have slept 8-10 hours before but you wake up five times during the night and feel restless. That is not the kind of 8-10 hours these sleep studies are suggesting.
I loved the way a professor of mine in college worded this. If you are sleeping 8 hours a night but you miss one hour every night of the week, you miss 7 total hours of sleep that week, nearly a full night of sleep. And if you’re like me, YOU FEEL THAT. Can you function? Absolutely. But will you possibly catch a cold, or be tired when 2-4pm hits? 100%.
This is also why I encourage you to track your sleep. Because reality is often different than our perception – when it comes to most things regarding our health.
Now, I understand some people do not have the luxury of getting 8-10 hours per night. But that doesn’t mean the effort to improve sleep quality or consistency should stop.
Really number two and and three affect your sleep as well. But we’ll get to that soon enough.
Start by tracking your sleep. You can do this manually if you like in a notebook or chart. But if you can afford it, there are watches like FitBits and Polar heart rate watches that will track your sleep duration and quality for you. I am sure there are probably apps now that track your sleep without any gadgets as well. Maybe not, but worth researching.
When you track things, you can improve them. What we measure we can manage, right?
So track your sleep, and look for ways you can get more or higher quality.
Since coming home from our world travels I have continued two things that we picked up while sleeping in establishments around the world: ear plugs and eye masks.
I shared the ear plugs we use on IG but maybe I can add them to my Amazon page as well for you guys. They are softer than the ones you’d use for shooting ranges and things of that sort. They’re less aggressive but work just as well.
What do ear plugs and eye masks do? Eliminate distractions for your body to be awakened by. Get you into a rhythm; into that deep sleep you want and need.
But do what works for you. Just know – sleep is your body’s time to recover on ALL physiological levels. So if your sleep is shit, so is your recovery, and likely your hormone function, immune system, and all of the things.
I will also say that some people really don’t require 7-10 hours. We are not robots. So get what feels good for you and make sure it’s quality.
On to number 2.
Yes I say enough. You might be surprised how many active women are under eating. And how that negatively affects their protein synthesis, muscle growth and management, sleep quality, immune function, hormone balance and overall health. Speaking from experience, under-eating is no joke. Under-eating + high stress levels in my early years of college led to hormonal acne, insane levels of muscle soreness without gaining strength, and constant sickness. My immune system was non-existent. I actually had one of my professors tell me to see an immunologist because of how often I had a cold or infection. It was terrible. And I just needed to stop working out at 5am on six hours of sleep and eating 1/4 cup of cottage cheese and a banana as my post workout meal. Good Lord I was so misinformed as a 19 year old trainee.
I took a few nutrition classes and started read more about powerlifting and bodybuilding. Although I never competed in or had interest competing in those sports, I did train in a similar manner so it benefitted me to hang out on T-Nation and Bodybuilding.com.
That is when I discovered I was eating like a freaking bird and trying to train like an ox. I started eating more Taco Del Mar Grande Burritos, felt 100% better and actually made gains in the gym. It was like a revelation to me. I needed to EAT MORE. Yes, quality matters and nutrition is so intensely multifaceted and out of my wheelhouse, but I know you need to consume enough of the right calories for your body to function under the demands you put on it. Whether that’s training six days a week or two. You need to make sure you’re consuming enough calories for your goals and not under-eating.
With getting enough fuel for your needs, comes drinking enough water. I know you’ve had a workout where you’re dehydrated and it literally feels terrible. Like you’re gasping for air and your muscles are cramping. No? Maybe that’s just me. But I have definitely experienced it and it’s no good. It is also VERY preventable. DRINK WATER.
Get a water bottle you love, take it with you everywhere. We were constantly buying gallons of water during our world travels. They don’t serve water at your table in most places. You have to ask for it.
In fact I remember when we had been awake for 36 hours on our four connecting flights home after our drone was confiscated in Morocco and we finally arrived in Salt Lake City. Oh my gosh if you’ve never flown into Salt Lake City at sunset, it is absolutely breathtaking (I need to go back). Anyway, we sat down at a restaurant and right after we sat down, they brought us two massive glasses of water for free and I literally starting laughing out loud. This was obviously due to lack of sleep but also total culture shock in coming back into the states. Just delicious clean, cold water for everyone, for free. No big deal. It was something I hadn’t experienced for 367 days, and it got me good.
So, drink your water. You’re largely made from water. Your body likes it when you are hydrated, okay? And it’s very hard to drink TOO MUCH water, so don’t use your fear of drinking too much water stop you from trying to drink ENOUGH water. Let’s be realistic please.
I’m not a registered dietitian. I do not consult for nutrition. I work with and refer clients to Working Against Gravity. Check them out if you’re wanting to learn how to change your relationship with food, or just explore options when it comes to nutrition.
Okay, moving on to the last health factor and possibly the most complex.
This one has levels to it.
And I want to start by saying that different types of workouts cause stress to your body. They require you to recover and come back stronger. And that requires work from your body.
I look at stress as TOTAL STRESS to your body – Relationship stress, work stress, not getting enough fuel and water stress, intense workouts (anything non-restorative), financial stress, being sick or fighting off a sickness, decision making overwhelm. All of that is STRESS. Not getting enough sleep causes stress.
When we look at our workouts and the weights we are using, some weeks feel amazing and others feel like shit. Well, when we are tracking and managing at least some areas of our stress, we can use that data to see trends for WHY workouts might be feeling the way they are.
I ask my 1:1 clients how their week ahead looks. If they know it’s going to be a week with high stress, they might go into lifts with the intent of following the program as planned, but with the back up plan of knowing they can lower weights or decrease volume if need be based on stress levels. We’re not training for the CrossFit games here. We’re looking to enjoy our time in the gym, learn about our bodies, and create consistency and longevity (OR that’s what myself and my clients are here for).
Stress management starts with awareness. You can’t manage something you can’t see or understand. We all have a stress threshold and it’s beneficial for many reasons to take the time to know your own.
For instance when my overall stress gets too high, I start to get a cold. I get sick and my low back aches. Even if I haven’t injured it or lifted weights. That’s just how my stress manifests itself. It can be stress from life, work, just too much overwhelm, too much training with not enough recovery or lack of sleep. All of those will show up as sickness or back pain. I’ve experienced it enough to know.
I know my warning signs. Ideally I can take a weekly assessment of my stress levels and prevent as much as is in my control. I really think that’s how we remain healthy and in a consistent spot with training and the results we want to get out of our training.
And I always go back to training because that is what I work first hand with in my own life and with my clients.
So, if you’re not keeping tabs on your stress in any way shape or form, I encourage you to take one day per week to check in with yourself.
Simple questions that take twenty minutes to an hour to fill out depending on the time you want to devote to them. But they give you invaluable feedback about your life, stress, goals and how to manage those accordingly.
Like I said at the beginning of this podcast, if you weren’t tracking any of these before this podcast, I hope you start tracking at least one of them this week.
Be a student of yourself. Of your body and mind and all that is your health.
Sleep, fuel and water, and stress. They are the three factors of your health that can have a huge impact and carryover into all areas of your life.
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I'm an adventurous introvert from Vancouver, Washington who lives on sleep + "me time." I'm a lover of lifting weights, dinosaurs, real talk and traveling with my husband. I am here to help you move better, lift more, bust the myths of the fitness industry, and inspire you to love the process.
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