Studies show that sleep can improve strength, speed, agility and reaction time… it also helps with muscle memory and can make people less prone to developing diabetes, obesity, hypertension… the list goes on and on… even the Huffington Post has an entire online section dedicated to Sleep.
Between books, the boardroom, box jumps and buying a house, as you can likely tell from my lack of blogging, I’ve had a hard time fitting everything in. My past few months of adventures have put an exclamation point on what I learned about myself during the nutrition challenge earlier this year. While strapped for time my diet and exercise might ebb and flow, but I cannot skimp on sleep. Mo sleep, Mo better Sarah… perhaps this has become clearer with age. My nights of all-nighters are over, with a good nights rest I am a high-functioning energetic superwoman, but without it, I’m a sluggish bump-on-a-log crabby pants. So, while attempting to catnap after my workout this morning, I jotted down a few sleep suggestions that seemed fitting given my recent adult-group house escapades. Yup, I’m a 30-something who lives in a group house right now… I’m attempting to reclaim my 9 hours of nightly shut-eye:
- Naps aren’t just for kids anymore. A power nap can be a lifesaver… there are even companies who are installing employee nap rooms. Hello, sleep is a performance enhancement tool. I wake up at 5:30A.M. (most mornings) and head to the gym. I’m home and showered and dressed for work by around 7:45. I then curl up in bed for a 30-minute nap before getting back up to throw on some make-up, pack my lunch, poor a large mug of coconut coffee and head out the door. I wouldn’t trade those 30 minutes for nearly anything. Knowing they exist are one of the only reasons I get up in the first place. Google “Arianna Huffington” and “sleep” and see what you find. It’s inspiring.
- Turn off gadgets, gizmos, and all things that start with a lower case i. Do this at least 30 minutes before you try to go to bed. While you might think that you need to be updated at every second of the day, or that leaving them on is helping you get ahead - there is science out there that proves otherwise. Power down already. It’s healthy to step away from the Internet and Facebook and work for a few hours, you won’t miss anything, promise. Your friends will still love you. Shut your eyes… see the bigger picture.
- Workout. Yup, wear yourself out, just like you would a kid or a puppy. Take a run or a walk or venture into a hot room or a CrossFit box… I tend to sleep harder when my body is exhausted. Nothing matches that feeling of falling into bed with a “wow I did something today” kind of body ache.
- Scratch your brain. Think. Engage. Do something mentally challenging. Surprisingly, since going back to school, I’ve found that I sleep deeper than ever before. My mind is just so tired at the end of the night that to-do lists melt into the pillow. And, no, TV watching does not count as something mentally challenging, especially before bedtime (see #2).
- Go to your comphy place. Everyone has their quirks about what they like. I’m a blinds open, moderate-temperature, no pillow, wake-up with the sun kinda girl. Trust me, that’s tough when you date a black-as-night, ice-cold, fan-on-high, kind of guy. Thankfully we can at least agree on toes out of the covers…which helps us meet in the middle. While dark, cool and quiet is proven to be the most successful, find out what works for you and go with it.
- Some people just need more sleep than others, don’t judge. In fact, most people need more sleep than they think they do. In DC people brag about their sleep deficits - less hours of sleep are often equated with a higher sense of accomplishment or worth - “ooo I’m so busy and important that I never have time to sleep.” False! Do not equate lack of sleep with success when the opposite is actually true.
- Drinking makes you drowsy. It also makes you think you’ve had the best blackout of your life (okay, which you may have had while awake), but in reality, it doesn’t do a darn thing when it comes to quality sleep. I know, the truth hurts.
- No TV in the bedroom. Yup, I said it. Try it. You might not get to catch up on TiVo, but in exchange, you might get a little more of something else. (insert winky-devil face). Seriously, a TV will light up your room like the 4th of July and while it might feel relaxing to lay in bed and watch a movie, it takes you right back to the dilemma listed in #2. Falling asleep with the TV on impacts your natural sleep patterns and will never allow you to get a good night’s rest.
- Set a bedtime. Back to all these things our parents forced us to do when we were kids but we abandoned as grown-ups. Figure out a time that works for you and attempt to go to bed as close to that time as possible every night. Okay, in reality it might not happen every night… and you likely won’t have someone dragging you up the stairs or tucking you in while you are kicking and screaming, but it’s a good goal to have. Routine is good.
- Last but not least, stop over programming yourself. I am the WORST offender of this - I absolutely hate sitting still or “wasting the day.” I feel like I need to cram every ounce of my time with some sort of activity, but sometimes you need to listen to your body and recharge. If you don’t, you’ll be forced to. If you find yourself running through things in your brain, write them down, then close your eyes… breathe deeply… slow the world down… and envision yourself melting into the covers.
I may have been covered in hives, but along the way… I soaked up a whole bunch of inspiration at Aspen Crossfit… inspiration sometimes comes in the form of high-altitude double unders, a 1K row and bear complex.
"We cannot become what we need to be remaining what we are." - M. Dupree
"I want to stand as close to the edge as I can… out on the edge you see all the kinds of things you can’t see from the center." - Kurt Vonnegut
Paragliding in Aspen, CO… touched the sky before landing back on the ground. Thankfully, I had a partner-in-crime to join me on this mountain adventure… We rode up a windy and very dusty road in a big truck, we ran off a cliff, yup… a double black diamond cliff, we soared, we twirled, we got to steer, we saw a breathtaking view of the valley… and then we not-so-gracefully landed. Amazing experience.
So, it’s real. I’m 32. According to my brother, I’m officially “old.” But… he tells me that every year.
Sometimes I can’t even believe it myself. I still walk to work with a backpack. I don’t a house or have kids. Sure, I go to sleep at 9:30 and pack my own lunch, but I just don’t feel like a grown-up. To be honesty, I hope that I never do. If anything, I still feel like I’m 25, except better… Sarah 2.0. I see myself differently. I’ve finally hit the point of knowing and trusting myself… a happy buzz, balance… I’d say that I’m more self-aware now than I’ve ever been before. I feel comfortable and confident in my own skin. We all have self-doubt, but these days it comes in smaller doses. Over the past few years of finding fit, I’ve re-thought food and fitness; I’ve dug deep and found my own inner strength. I’ve learned that success is something that’s much more than surface deep. It’s build from within.
Life is full of amazing adventures. I can only hope that I’ll continue to live with abandon, practice wellness, and continue to learn… stop time, love the moment. In celebration of my 32 years, I thought I’d post a list of 32 memories that I hold close to my heart. Each of them is a brick in the building of me.
- One word: Bricks
- A volcano in Guatemala, and a lake, and amazing food with an amazing friend.
- My mom’s transplant…
- and… the months that followed.
- My dad.
- Yoga… through it I’ve found balance and strength and zen.
- Double black diamonds at nearly 13,000ft.
- My first half-marathon… along with the months of running leading up to it.
- Soul searching with the stars… on many occasions.
- Climbing a rope.
- Doing a pull-up.
- Eating an oyster.
- An adventure race.
- Living alone.
- Living with others.
- Getting laid off.
- Going to grad school. Granted I just started and it might suck, but it was a big step for me even to apply, so I’m proud of myself for opening the door.
- Playing flashlight tag as a child. A lot.
- Stage crew.
- A high school morning show.
- The Gauley… and other trips with my Broski.
- Walks (and runs) through the woods.
- A Cold War.
- Ragnar Relay. Take one. And then two.
- The battlefield of Antietam.
- Finding my best friend.
- Falling in love.
- Beers on the beach under the moon.
- Crossfit. Everywhere.
- Driving a race car. Okay, cars in general. My family is big on cars.
- Laughing, a lot.
This MIGHT get in the way of my workouts this week… Youch. I’m a lobster cake.
For some reason my red lulu leggings make me feel invincible – like a shank-style super girl. I’m not really sure why… but they exude some air of confidence, an unexplainable energy. Wearing them for the past two days worth of workouts (yes, two days)… seems to have offered some sort of clarity among my moments of crazy.
It’s been a rough few weeks. Loads of life updates: I’ve moved. I’ve started graduate school. I’m trying to buy a house. And… all the while, I’m still attempting to balance work and workouts. As 32 draws closer, I find myself questioning where I fit in the world, reviewing and re-evaluating. DC is expensive. Time is a hot commodity. How do you balance everything and still remember to breath?
Going back to school has been stressful. Fear can be consuming. I feel like a ticking time bomb. Turning in my first assignment earlier this week was much harder than walking into any gym, running Murph alone, or battling through a Cold War. The sense of self-doubt was draining, suffocating, stifling… then it erupted into every other aspect of my world. Making me question my choices… life path… is this a good idea? what will it get me? will I succeed? Change is uncomfortable and daunting and awkward. It’s hard and scary. It pushes you into new places, but it also makes you want to retreat.
Carrying around bricks has proven to be much easier than books. I’d rather have sore abs or quads! The gym is my comfort zone. I’ve come to grips with my only hour-long sweat sessions, but I already feel lonely on the path less traveled – reading, writing, scratching my brain. I miss my 6:30 “happy hour.” Between battling Annie yesterday (with my best time yet) and standing in a deep warrior two this afternoon, something clicked. I am strong. I can find comfort in the current. My perspective will dictate my performance. I have the opportunity to choose my own outlook and outcome.
What I work through now, will ultimately lead to something bigger and better and brighter. Self-construction is positive, be it in the classroom or in a gym. Life works out as planned. It pieces itself together. Instead of staring down the next three years, I have to take a step back, breathe, and then fight through one day at a time. Like pushing through a plateau – the mindset is the same – it’s about self-awareness and mental fortitude. Turn of the brain. Believe in yourself. Trust. Do. I’m tougher than I think I am and I have to recognize that.
As I kicked up into my first hand-stand during a lunch time power-hour with the yoga mat, the instructor taped me on the back and whispered, “nice work.” Perhaps it was the validation I needed to regain my super-powers.
Or maybe it was the fact that today is my Friday.
Or maybe it’s last night’s liquid sangria courage still talking.
Or maybe, it really does have something to do with the red pants.
Success is the sum of small efforts… repeated day in and day out… I’ve learned that…
I did my first pistol!! Okay, well technically two pistols. I didn’t have on lifting shoes and they sure weren’t pretty… but they happened. At 6AM. After a brutal 20min AMRAP practicing some much needed skillz!
It’s sometimes hard to remember that the deeper you delve into the well of CrossFit, the further apart the big wins become. Trust me. There are many days, as I see the people around me PRing, when I need that reminder. It isn’t always about giant jumps in weight or topping the leader board - it’s the day in and the day out, adopting the mantra that this is where I am now, but if I keep pushing, eventually, the next piece will fall into place. I have more than a book of evidence - descriptors of the daily grind - pages of tiny celebrations. Sometimes that mental happy place isn’t as easy to find as it sounds.
It’s the small successes that mean the most. Regardless of the size of the accomplishment, today I am better than I was yesterday. I have to take a step back and remember that it isn’t about the person next to me or the people in the afternoon class - it isn’t about judging myself against them or putting pressure on myself for an imagined image of what I should accomplish or where I should be - it’s my own journey and today, I did something that I never thought I’d ever do.
A 1:36 400m run. Light bulbs about HSPUs. Friday. Pistols!!!
What more can a girl ask for? Hells yeah!
There are days when I am an eat-o-saurus. Today is one of those days. Thank you back squats.