GYM & TONEIC

Sleep is life!

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Rest, recovery and sleep are so important when it comes to your health and well-being. The National Sleep Foundation (NSF) states that sleep is a basic human need and is just as important for good health as diet and physical activity. It’s a topic that is close to my heart, being a 10 hour girl that bloody loves her sleep, a girl who will happily call it a night and retreat to the land of nod at 9pm given half the chance. I never really have a problem falling asleep and if I do I consider it to be a big problem! I fall into the deepest sleep, so much so I’ve woken up to friends checking my pulse in the middle of the night thinking I’ve slipped into a coma or died – I cannot function without a lot of sleep!

I’m writing this post off the back of a horrific 5 hours broken sleep, after going round to my friend Nicola’s house (Botty, the crazy marathon runner) for a ‘quiet’ girl’s night in with two of my other good friends, Sian and Georgie. I say good friends… they were downing drinks and dancing on tables till 5.30am, I took myself off to bed at 2am and tried to get some shut eye, whilst they caused carnage around her kitchen table (the below picture a snippet of the night), scenes from an American frat party at number 23! I’m tired, grumpy and seriously contemplating un-liking and de-friending them in real life right now…

shots, shots, shots
shots, shots, shots

I bang on to them like a broken record that they need to get more sleep, as they regularly pull all-nighters (on school nights too!). Telling them they’re all going to look 90 by the time they hit 40, to which they hurl abuse back at me too obscene to repeat in public… when the mirror on the wall cracks in front of you at 40 ladies, you’ll wish you’d taken my advice 😉 I only say this because I love you!

The body is set to a 24-hour clock, the internal biological clock being fundamental to the survival of all living organisms (so pretty important!). It influences hormone secretion, urine production, regulates body temperature and blood pressure. A good night’s sleep allows the body to wake up fresh and invigorated, ready to face the coming day’s challenges. Too little sleep causes drowsiness, inability to concentrate, reduced productivity and performance. In the long-term sleep deprivation has been linked to premature aging (Nicola, Sian & Georgie take note!), digestive disturbances, psychological problems, behavioral disturbances and a host of chronic diseases including obesity, diabetes and heart diseases (ref NSF). In short, too little sleep is NOT good!

Sleep scientists generally agree that most adults need 7 to 8 hours sleep a night – I’m an exception to this then! Getting too little sleep will create a ‘sleep debt’ that will eventually catch up with you and need to be repaid. Below are some top tips to get your sleep on…

Top tips for improving sleep

  • Exercise!
  • Set a scheduled time for sleep
  • Take a warm bath
  • Reduce stressful activities
  • Blackout your bedroom
  • Avoid caffeine before bed (up to 6 hours before)
  • Avoid nicotine and alcohol
  • Don’t go to sleep too full or hungry
  • Relax before bed
  • Control room temperature (lower temperature improves sleep)

‘Sleep is the best meditation’
~ Dalai Lama

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Roll & relieve: benefits of using a foam roller

Foam roller meme

I’m not going to lie, the first time I used a foam roller in the gym I thought my back was going to snap. The love/hate I had for my PT reached new levels that day – it was a sure sign that my muscles were tight as hell and using one was long overdue.  

Despite initially regarding them as an instrument of torture, I sucked it up and continued to use it before and after workouts as advised.  I’m now a complete convert come preacher, and cannot recommend using one enough – to everyone and anyone who’ll listen. So much so, I bought my dad one for Christmas (he was less than impressed), but he’ll thank me one day!

Feeling ‘the burn’ after a workout is like a badge of honour, a sign you’ve trained hard and are getting stronger. However, delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS) can hinder your training and increase risk of injury. I’ve learnt this the hard way over the years with numerous injuries (torn intercostal muscle THE worst!), because I didn’t stretch sufficiently or do any form of active recovery.

Self-myofascial release (self-massage) with a foam roller relieves tight muscles by smoothing out the knots and encouraging blood flow to the area, returning them to normal function. It hurts! But works… it’s uncomfortable but bearable and gets easier over time.  Rolling daily or 3/4 times per week could save you a fortune in physio fees if/when your muscles finally give in!

Here’s a few exercises I do…

Hamstring roll – I regularly find myself walking like John Wayne, I do this most days. To roll your hamstrings, place the roller beneath your thigh and roll from your lower bum to your knee.

Hamstring roll

Glute roll  the biggest muscle group in the body, I’m trying to make mine much bigger! To roll your glutes, sit on the roller and rest one foot on the opposite knee. Place your weight onto the side with the resting foot and roll back and forth.

Glute roll

Quad roll – to roll your quads, start in a plank position with the roller below your upper thigh. Place weight on one side of your body, then roll forwards so that the foam roller moves towards your knee.

Quad roll

Back roll – I find this most satisfying, my back is always in knots from the gym, bad posture and sitting at my desk. To roll your back, lie on your back and place the roller below your shoulders, then roll towards your ribs and lower back, back and forth.

Back roll

My foam roller cost around £15 from eBay, they come in all shapes and sizes but ultimately they all do the same thing – a great investment.

foam roller

Happy rolling!

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