The Progress Puzzle: 5 Pieces You Might Be Missing
It’s easy to take our eyes off the end goal when we’re mid-way to it, falling into the common trap of unfocused obscurity. Every athlete and amateur experiences this at some point in his or her training or career, often due to distraction, mental burnout, or disinterest.
But what about when our focus is on-point? What could we be doing wrong when we think we’ve checked all the right boxes, eaten the right foods, and stuck to the right routine, yet we still fail to reach our goals?
More often than not, we have at least one factor that isn’t properly accounted for and managed. It’s just hard to see when we’re caught up in the middle of it all.
Sleep is fundamental, yet many of us overlook its importance. We strive to get all of our weekly workouts done, but by the time we get to Friday, our energy levels and performance decrease.
"You wouldn’t cut your workout in half and expect to achieve the same results, would you?"
If you imagine each night of quality sleep as a workout, and focus on warm up, duration, and intensity, then you’ll be able to give it the attitude and discipline it deserves. Try to think of your approach to your sleep workout this way:
- Warm up: Cut out any stimulants such as caffeine and energy drinks after a certain point in the day. Most people do well cutting out coffee after 4:00pm and removing any brain activity-increasing distractions such as laptops, tablets, and smartphones an hour before bed.
- Duration: Seven to eight hours is the optimum range for a good night’s sleep, yet we continually bypass this and try to get by on less. You wouldn’t cut your workout in half and expect to achieve the same results, would you?
- Intensity: Don’t be mistaken - sleep shouldn’t be “intense.” It should be relaxing, but we should take note of the intensity insofar as how deep and when we sleep. Get all your hours in at once and get two hours of sleep in before midnight, as that can be a rejuvenator, keeping you in your natural circadian rhythm.
Let’s assume your diet is healthy, wholesome, and complete, because if it isn’t, you’d probably be hunting in the nutrition section of this website. The following tips assume everything is in check on paper, but you feel as if something still just isn’t right.
- Avoid spices and greasy foods: A percentage of people don’t digest these foods easily, which affects training and interrupts sleep. If you sometimes get an upset stomach, then it’s worth considering.
- Avoid eating late at night: If you don’t give yourself enough time to digest your dinner, then expect a lower standard of sleep. Digestive functions slow down during the night and could keep you awake if they are made to work.
- Eating enough, but not too much: How much are you eating? If it’s too much, you might not be able to sleep at night. If it’s too little, you won’t be aiding recovery properly.
Vitamin deficiency, or any deficiency, can be detrimental to your training. Missing one ingredient in the complex spectrum of vitamins, minerals, and micronutrients can seriously affect your performance and well-being.
It helps to look deeper into your body and find out how you’re digesting and processing nutrients. This is not to say a deficiency can’t be due to simply taking in insufficient foods, but there could be other, more serious reasons.
"Missing one ingredient in the complex spectrum of vitamins, minerals, and micronutrients can seriously affect your performance and well-being."
A deficiency of iron, for example, may indicate internal blood loss or an inability to properly absorb nutrients. It is best to see a doctor if you feel you are experiencing symptoms in any way that may indicate an internal problem.
The word intolerance may conjure up memories of unsettled stomachs and queasy feelings, but it can be much more than that. On the high-end of the scale, there are severe situations such as Celiac disease, which results in damage to the intestinal walls due to a reaction to gluten. There are also more subtle cases of feeling drowsy after a heavy intake of wheat-based carbohydrates. In these cases, you may do well on an elimination diet.
Lactose intolerance can also vary in levels, from nausea and sickness to stomach cramps and diarrhea. Although it tends to be less serious, it can hinder your gains and results, as well as your day-to-day quality of life. If your body is spending time and energy battling with a foreign substance, it’s wasting the same energy you could use for training.
The best advice here would be to take a blood test. There is a wide range of independent companies offering tests online. Once you have the knowledge, an intolerance can be fixed easily and doing so can greatly increase your potential.
If you feel you have the shivers coming along, have a headache, or feel run down, it is always - I repeat, always - a good idea to wrap up, eat some chicken (or vegetable) soup, and get a good night’s sleep. Never train when sick. It will pass much more quickly if you can accept the sickness and let it run its course.
"One of the most common types of infection is the threadworm, and it can range from having no effects to causing inflammation, weight loss, stomach cramps, and iron-deficiency anemia."
We must remember to recognize our bodies as living, breathing environments that host many types of bacteria and organisms. An invasion from outside can wreak havoc on us physically, without us even knowing - until it affects our training. One of the most common types of infection is the threadworm, and it can range from having no effects to causing inflammation, weight loss, stomach cramps, and iron-deficiency anemia. The scary fact is many of us pick up these infections without even realizing.
That said, situations like this can be treated with over-the-counter medication and a strict hygiene routine. If you haven’t had a test for a worm or parasite, you should consult your doctor before taking treatment, as the above symptoms can also indicate other more serious conditions.
Take Time to Assess Your Health
As a fail-safe approach to keeping on form with your training, try running through this list whenever you’re concerned something isn’t quite right. Sometimes it’s difficult for more experienced athletes to admit something is off, but it’s an important thing to evaluate that can bring a complete rejuvenation to your training. Give yourself - body and mind - the attention and focus you need to thrive.
Photo 1 courtesy of CrossFit Impulse.
Photos 2 and 3 courtesy of Shutterstock.