The Sparkle Coach: Optimise your performance with plenty of rest
Optimum sleep or a ‘better rest strategy’ seems like an oxymoron to fitness programmes but sleep can support fat loss, improve our immune system and help with our cardiovascular health.
If you want to perform at your peak in any area of life, like an athlete, you need adequate rest and recovery prior to taking action again.
I used to assume athletic performance was a result of a strict nutrition and exercise plan alone, and neglected the integral power of sleep to promote recovery and achieve results.
And as humans are ‘all athletes’ and constantly using energy, it’s important that we get enough rest to boost our performance through its mind and body benefits and encourage cell repair, building muscle following exercise.
But how do we do it in a time when technology usage is at an all-time high with the blue light of the screen piercing through our homes and lives as we work, and we are consuming and communicating online more than ever?
Adequate sleep, rest and recovery is something I have been neglecting too as I just “didn’t have time” to rest.
I like high pace, being productive and am stubbornly ambitious to achieve. I regimentally follow a successful ‘power’ morning routine of exercise, self-care and goal setting, yet I knew I ‘should’ be resting more, I felt scared to stop.
I was getting a 6-7.5-hour rest most nights, depending on work and family commitments. I knew I was cramming sleep in and that would be the first thing that slipped off track in stressful times.
I needed to tackle this ‘bad habit’ of feeling ‘rest guilt’ which I have had for as long as I can remember and I have started planning in and commuting to weekly rewards at a weekend with my partner and children; Power Yoga, pampering, documentaries and South East Asian food are what motivates me.
But when it came to sleep, a deeper-rooted fear of mine, I needed strict accountability, a coach and a challenge; three things that motivate most of us!
The UK’s leading sleep expert, who has trained GB Athletes, Natalie Pennicotte-Collier and BBC Radio 5 Live invited me to document my journey with their support on air in the run up to World Sleep Day, after I appeared on the show to share ‘how exercise as a form of mental wellbeing therapy’ is powerful. I could not refuse this opportunity of public accountability.
To start with on our ‘better rest strategy’ journey is to enter the observation zone by actively enabling sleep into our routine through reducing blue light at night, waking up at a set time daily (at the moment I must commit 100 per-cent and then I can go to a more sustainable 80/20 approach, but this is all about creating a better sleep routine and no real growth comes out of our comfort zone.
I have to aim for five sleep cycles at night (each cycle is 90 minutes) and eventually these can be spread throughout the day if required.
In the morning I set my alarm for 6am, get up and exercise within the first hour of waking up without looking at social media, as our best adrenaline is in the morning and we can easily fall into the “scroll hole.”
I breathe in 30 minutes of fresh air before midday and then by 9.30pm I switch off technology (reducing small screen time as much as possible as these are even more damaging than television screens), I dim the lights and I am in bed by 10.30pm.
I have also incorporated a 20 minute ‘body scan’ meditation, which I can do in the day or at night to not only help relax but to ‘tune me in’ to my sensory experiences.
I have got the kids on board too with this challenge as we all need to reduce our device time at least an hour before bed, playing sleeping lions as a body scan is a great way for us to restore together.
By taking this time to rest, my work is more focused and completed in a shorter period, I feel more inclined to lift heavier weights when training and most of all I feel proud that I am pushing myself to progress in an area I too have been avoiding.