Get the Right Amount of Sleep!

Yesterday, I woke up tired. I went to bed too late (to be fair, I was up late supporting my daughter’s Twitch channel) and as a result, I woke up with only about 6 hours of sleep. For some people, that’s the norm, but I try to get at least 7-8 hours of sleep a night. The sweet spot for me at my age seems to be about 7.5 hours; if I can get that, I feel rested and can operate at my full potential the following day. More than 8.5 hours? I actually feel sluggish. Less than 7? I feel tired all day.

A frame from a video captured during my bike ride yesterday.

Yesterday happened to be my mid-week workout day which means StrongLifts 5×5 normally followed by a 4-mile run. However, since I have a 4 mile ruck with 48 lbs pack on Friday, I decided to do the normal weightlifting followed by a 30 minute mountain bike ride. It was either the bike ride or a slow 3 mile run, but I opted for the bike ride since it’s less impact and works slightly different muscles (but mostly the same leg muscles, just in different ways). What I noticed immediately when I got into my home gym was my lack of motivation and lack of energy.

Thanks to a TAC Officer at WOCS, I learned about eating half a banana before a workout to help with energy during training and then eating the other half afterward to help with recovery. The impact that little tip has made has been great. However, since I didn’t get enough sleep, my body was already tired and not fully up for the tasks at hand. Case in point: my pull-ups. I always start my gym sessions with pull-ups, and I’ve worked myself up to between 5 and 7 from 0 just four months ago. My goal is 20 dead hangs, and I have a LONG way to go, but that’s my goal. Yesterday, I could only muster 4 with an ugly not-quite-there 5th. I fell from the bar disgusted but I realized very quickly that it was not only my fault, but that the workout was going to be difficult. I’d have to dig deeper than normal just to get through.

The squats were okay. I only raise my weights by 5 lbs every third workout, so it was my second workout at 185 lbs, and I was okay with them. The bench press, on the other hand, is another story. For those, I’m at 155 lbs, and that recently went up by 5 lbs and the difference that 5 lbs made was surprising. On top of that, the lack of energy from being tired really made the last two sets difficult. The final 2 reps of the last set were probably the hardest I’ve had since I’ve started weightlifting. The final exercise was the barbell row at 110 lbs. Normally, I can do these with nice form and without too much difficulty, but yesterday, they felt sloppy, difficult, and those 110 lbs felt more like 125 lbs. It was super difficult.

I also do bare-bar curls at the end of each session to help with my biceps. I’m not looking to make them super-strong or anything, but I want them to have some definition. I’m up to 20 reps on those with a goal of reaching 100. Again, I’m not trying to get arms like Arnold; I just want them to look leaner with a little bit of a gaster. The curls went okay until the last three where I felt completely out of gas.

The only time I ever used gloves during lifting was here. I won’t do it again; I prefer the bare bar.

I then took a little break between the lifting and the biking. Okay, not really a break, but it took some time to get on my biking shorts, riding shoes, gloves, helmet, and to get the equipment on the bike set. Once I got outside, I set out for a 30 minute bike ride through some trails and then on the road. My goal pace was 15 mph, but between the strong headwinds and the lack of energy, my average turned out to be closer to 13 mph. After the workout, I felt completely spent, but my legs were happy, and I didn’t incur any injuries.

That last point is the most important, because looking back on past injuries, there was always one thing in common on the days I became injured; I didn’t have enough sleep the night before. When you’re tired and lack energy, you look to cheats to complete lifts you can otherwise complete when fully rested. During one warm-up rep, I realized I had cheated during a squat by leaning forward as I came up. This is a BIG no-no in squats because you can pull a lower back muscle or get muscle spasms. I felt the different muscles being used and immediately made sure to correct my form. I then made sure through every rep of every set that my form was, first and foremost, proper. I would be okay with not being able to complete a set; I would not be okay with getting injured trying to complete a set.

Yesterday, I dodged a bullet and didn’t get hurt, but the amount of energy it took out of me was huge. I plopped down on the couch yesterday after dinner and wasn’t able to help my wife clean up after dinner. I was just too wiped out. I also went to bed very early to catch up on my sleep. This morning, I do feel much better; I wish I’d have felt this way yesterday!

I’ve mentioned in the past how important sleep is for weight loss. Without proper rest, you are much more likely to reach a plateau and stay there until you can get enough sleep, as your body drops most of its weight while you sleep. While I’m not particularly worried about losing weight right now, I am interested in continuing to make progress with my strength and cardio, and without enough sleep, I risk making any progress there, as well. So, I’m making an effort to ensure I get at least 7.5-8 hours of sleep a night.

Get that rest. I know many people say they just don’t have time for it, but trust me; you do. YOU own your schedule, and YOU need to make sleep a priority. It makes not only exercise and weight loss easier, but it makes functioning during the day easier, helps emotionally, and your productivity will rise. You can do more in less time with more sleep which then negates the need to skimp on the sack time (for those who aren’t aware, “The Sack” is what we call a bed in the Marines). Hit the sack every night for at least 7 hours. Try for 8 or more if that makes you feel more rested. Some will need more; some will need less. Find out what the right number is for you, and strive to hit that every night. The quality of life you get from a good night’s rest is not to be underestimated.

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