In public safety, I know that after a long night of running ambulance calls in a snowstorm or fighting a fire which could involve pulling hose or ceiling for hours, it’s really tempting to just get that workout out of the way as soon as the shift is over. We have stuff to do, and that’s the only time we have to workout. Chug some coffee and just get it done. Not a good plan. It’s not worth it. Ok, you got your workout in, but how effective was it? Go home, take a nap, get some sleep. Maybe take a………..rest day.
Personally, I have a really hard time taking rest days. Rest days for me are usually just rest days from CrossFit, and I do some other workout instead like Insanity or a 3 mile run. I get antsy and feel guilty if I don’t get my workout in, which I have found to be fairly common with a lot of people. It’s something I’m working on. I realize the importance of giving my body a rest once in a while. Physically, when you go all out 7/365, you don’t give your body a chance to recover. Your muscles and joints do need a break too. Sure you see faster results in the gym now, but what about 10 years down the road. It will catch up to you. Sometimes your body just needs a break. Psychologically, if you actually embrace the time off, you can come back to the gym the next day and have a stronger and harder workout.
Along with rest comes sleep. Again, this is something I’m working on too. I strive to get at least 8 hours of sleep each night, however I usually end up getting around 6. I used to take medicine to help me sleep better, but after I started to become more strategic about my sleeping, I was able to quit taking them. Ha, strategic about sleeping.
- Eat clean. When I went back to the Paleo way of eating, I found that I slept so much better. I slept more soundly and I slept longer.
- Allow yourself time to wind down. You can’t go go go go go go and then just expect yourself to fall asleep right away. For me, I read. It makes my eyes tired.
- Turn off the TV. We have a TV in our bedroom. My husband can watch TV as much as he wants when I’m gone on my shift days, but when I’m home, no TV in the bedroom. The bright colors, the light, the noise…I believe that it makes it more difficult to fall asleep. Before we were married, he used to fall asleep to the TV every night, claimed that it helped him wind down. Not long after we were married, he told me that although he thought he had to have the TV on to fall asleep, he actually slept better without it. It took some getting used to, but now he doesn’t need the TV anymore.
- Put the phone down. I make a point to send those last few texts, check Facebook for the last time, then set my phone down for the night. Again, distractions. I guess I figure that I don’t need to be thinking about work or my schedule for the next day or my upcoming Dr appt or replay that one conversation I had from earlier in the day. It’s all a part of winding down and relaxing.
- Make your bedroom a place of rest. One of my good friends from college told me about this. Get that computer desk out of there. Piles of bills, your filing cabinet, your desktop. When you go to bed, if that pile of bills is the last thing that you see, odds are you won’t sleep as well.
- Darken your room. Blackout curtains, thick curtains, sleeping mask, what have you. Just make your room dark. My husband works the overnight shift and has had blackout curtains for ages. A dark room helps with sleep immensely.
- Try some ear plugs. I realize that some people need the white noise, but if you don’t, try ear plugs. I find that the quiet helps me. The sounds from the street heater kicking in, the sound of the dog collar…all blocked out. The rhythmic sound of my breathing helps me to fall asleep.
These are just a few examples of things that I do to sleep better. Some may work for you, some may not. My hope is that you find rest. With rest comes strength.