Making a little time for R&R

It’s been a while party people. Sorry for the unintended hiatus. I lost access to the world wide weberverse for a while, along with some work commitments, but here I am. Rested and rejuvenated.

Well, sort of.

Maybe I’m not as rested as I’d like to be. Oh hey, what do we have here? It looks like we’ve got ourselves a blog topic.

Understanding the backstory is important for any story. So to tell you my story, I need to summarize another story. A few days ago, this story popped up on ESPN.

Basically, it talked about the importance of rest. Like last year’s Miami Heat, the Cavs were running with only a few key players, and they were being worn down my a deeper team.

The story dug deeper though to talk about how the Warriors are being more proactive about getting their players rested, including the use of new technology to better understand when people are fatigued.

They’re using subjective and objective indicators at an almost compulsive level to determine when players need rest and what changes the organization needs to make in how it does business.

One of these changes was to book flights the next day instead of the night immediately following games to allow the players to get a full night’s rest. This one threw me. I couldn’t believe this wasn’t already common practice. That said, I’ve known for a while that I’m sensitive to not getting enough sleep, and flying just makes it a double whammy.

So that’s their story. Now it’s time for my story.

I mentioned to the importance of sleep, but let’s dig into that. Getting enough sleep isn’t rocket science. We know sleep is needed for recovery. Some recommendations get as high as 9 to 10 hours of sleep for people who are very active to help them recover as they prep for events like marathons. And me? I can sleep.

Except when I can’t.

Some days, I’m a borderline narcoleptic, falling asleep wherever I can just sit still. Other days, sleep is not to be had. And I know I’ll pay for that.

I’ve had to get very meticulous about how I approach sleep now. One of the first things I did was back off of caffeine. I try to quit every now and then, but I promptly fall of the wagon. Luckily, I can usually at least cut myself off early enough in the day that it doesn’t interfere with sleep (I try not to have anything after 1, but 5 to 6 is my true breaking point).

Another thing is to make sure my bed is a vessel for sleep. I don’t hang out there. I make sure my room is cool at night so I don’t feel stuffy. I even got thick curtains so I could get that motel dead-of-night in the middle of the day look.

All of this was to make my sleep better, but I wasn’t doing a good job of sleeping as long as I should have.

This is where technology comes in. I’ve mentioned my fitbit (aka, my slackertracker). As much as I like the tracking of physical activity (averaged 10,000 steps this past week for only the second time in the year and half I’ve used fitbits), the real key was assessing my sleep. My fitbit does a pretty good job of not only knowing how long I slept but how well I slept.

On a good night, I’ll get an almost solid bar of blue.

This is rare but awesome.

This doesn’t happen very often, but it’s my goal. A bad night, though, involves a lot of moving around or getting up that disrupts me.

Not typical but not as rare as it should be. A night like this usually means I’m about to pay a price.

And of course, I can track quantity of sleep, not just how much I’m moving when I sleep. I get to see these handy dandy charts that let me know how I’ve slept.

This is the real breadwinner. If I’m having an off week, this is the chart that usually tells me why.

Over time, I recognized patterns. I tended to sleep the most on Friday nights. Sunday nights tended to be the worst, which is of course a terrible way to start off a Monday.

It was also pretty clear proof that I wasn’t getting as much sleep as I thought I was. I was going to bed thinking I was getting close to 8 a night, but it was really an hour less. I wasn’t taking into account the total winding down time and the time I was getting up in the middle of the night.

Finally, I started pushing back when I was going to sleep. I’m in the habit now of winding down an hour sooner, and it’s worked wonders.

I also started letting myself sleep later. This was also a key decision. Instead of just giving into fatigue and leaving myself with a long, crappy day, I have a slightly shorter day where I’m much more refreshed.

But it’s not all about sleep. It’s about rest in general. I read somewhere that you should always have about 2-3 weeks between running events even as small as 5Ks for recovery.

I learned the hard way about that. A couple of years ago, I ran 5Ks 6 days apart. The second 5K didn’t go great. I woke up the next day sick. Because I wasn’t moving much in the two-week sickness, I got an even worse surprise. I was feeling better and went on a trip for work. When I grabbed my bag from the overhead compartment when getting off a plane, I felt an extremely sharp pain in the middle of my chest.

This was downright terrifying. I was only at my layover airport. I didn’t know what was happening. I didn’t connect it to grabbing the bag because the bag wasn’t that heavy. I had to do some quick diagnosis (never ever ever do this; go to a doctor), and I decided it was PROBABLY musculoskeletal, not cardio related. I did my work thing, went home, and went to the doctor as soon as possible. If you’ve never called a doctor’s office about chest pain, you’re missing all the fun. By this point, I knew it probably wasn’t heart related, but chest pain is the magic word in the medical community.

Long story short, it took two months to get a diagnosis (a PT finally put enough pressure on my chest that no one else could manage when they pressed, and I about lost my mind in pain). It was costochondritis. It sucks. And in the medical stuff you see, even when you’re almost certain that’s what it is, it still says to see a doctor immediately to rule out heart issues (seriously, never do what I did; it was incredibly stupid, and even knowing I have a predisposition for this to flare up again, I’m not taking that risk ever again).

I was inactive for two months just trying to get a diagnosis for this. I had trouble regaining activity because this really is a hellacious injury that made little things painful (e.g., turning my head, reaching for the car stereo). I lost months because of a downward spiral that started when I ran two 5Ks too closely together.

And of course, we can’t forget about my left foot. Those evil Nikes were always evil, but I didn’t do myself any favors. In the first two outings, I ran 2 miles and 2.5 miles. That’s very far for me (remember, this is qhatesrunning, not qadoresrunning). The day after that 2.5, I could barely walk. I still have twinges in my foot, even though I did eventually let things heal. Again, all because I didn’t rest enough (in addition to wearing shoes from Satan).

Now I take rest more seriously, to OCDish levels sometimes. I’m more active in my preventative measures.

For starters, back-to-back intense workouts don’t happen without at least a full day or two of rest in between. I might do light yoga on a joining day, but that’s rare.

Speaking of yoga, I started for pain management. And it fit the bill perfectly. In doing this, I also gained flexibility and core strength. For all the good weights and running do, they also do a wonderful job of making me feel like I was in a car crash sometimes. Yoga keeps me mobile.

The foam roller is also my best friend. When I’m good about my foam roller, I recover MUCH more quickly. After my first session that included squats and lunges in the weight room, I used the foam roller the next day. While that was later than I should and I about cried, my legs wrote me a thank you note because they were finally functioning again.

Along these lines, I also have to roll with my foot. I figured out at some point when I hurt my foot that rolling a wiffle ball helped my foot feel better. Once I thought I was in the clear, I gave them away to a coworker dealing with a similar issue. Of course, it’s flaring back up again. It’s not as bad as it was, but I know the twinge. I bought tennis balls to help deal with it (firm, but not as hard as a wiffle ball). I keep one in the office and two at home (even taking one on my work trip).

And of course, we’ll throw in massage. Eventually, I can’t make enough headway, and I need someone with expertise to help take care of the aches and pains. I probably get a massage about once every 6 months at this point, though it may increase if I can ever find a place I like.

Lastly, every push earns a pull. The cartilage injury in my chest led to PT, which was largely focused on improving my posture and strengthening my back, particularly behind my shoulder blade. Now that I’m lifting again, I’m being very purposeful to make sure every time I push one direction, I pull in the opposite direction.

So yeah. Rest and recovery are awesome. If you don’t do a little of it all the time, you’ll be forced into doing a lot of it all at once. Trust me, a little is better than a lot.




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