I recently went to the very first USAW Weightlifting Symposium for coaches, and it was a truly amazing experience. There were so many experts and coaches of elite weightlifters that it was exciting to just be in the same room. The presentations given were on a plethora of topics, and although they all pertained to the snatch and clean and jerk, there were a lot of takeaways for all sports. Among all the things I learned, one of the biggest things I took away (for personal reasons) is how much sleep, and the lack thereof, affects your performance.
This may seem obvious to most, but a lot of people (myself included) like to function at high levels on very little sleep. It’s so funny how I can promote such a healthy lifestyle and the sports of Crossfit and Olympic Weightlifting, and I do not partake in one of the most important aspects of recovery.
Now, let’s focus on the term “recovery.” It is thrown out there a lot and people just assume it means rest. The point of “recovery” is to get our physiological systems back to at least baseline, which results in restoration of athletic performance. So when we workout we literally get our bodies at a deficit for functioning in any aspect, whether in the gym or out of the gym. Recovering with nutritious food is an amazing component but most often we don’t rest our bodies or stay at a low functioning level (even if we feel ok), and then our central nervous system stays highly stressed, and we stress it more back at the gym and we continue the cycle.
At the symposium they were promoting sleep hygiene. It sounds a little funny but once it was explained it made a lot of sense. Just as we have regular hygiene, such as brushing our teeth twice a day we need to come up with a routine to get us in the mode for sleeping longer and better. The first step would be to eat your dinner a little earlier, so meal prepping would definitely help. The second step would be to turn off all the screens in your room. That means iPad’s, the television, and yes, your phone need to be off. I am the worst at this. I claim I like to listen to the tv to fall asleep faster and my phone sits nexts to me in case of an emergency. Well the light and energy released by these products makes it difficult to disconnect and thus throws off our circadian rhythm. The room should also be cooler than you believe. When it is too warm, it prevents you from inhaling and exhaling as you should and the deep sleep portion of your night gets cut too short. Sleep hygiene is important and needs to be implemented like any other sort of hygiene.
If you feel like you are getting injured frequently, not feeling great during workouts and not PRing when you think you should, but you’re eating right and working out consistently, then sleep is the tool you need. To recover and get back to at least baseline sleep needs to be a component that is not ignored. I will definitely be working on this myself. Happy sleeping!