Basic Lifestyle Guidelines - Energy

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Basic Lifestyle Guideline 2 – The Earth spins, and the Sun and Moon correlate with our energy patterns; we need Sun exposure, we sleep with the Moon.

This guideline encompasses many things which can impact your quality of life and how you feel on a day to day basis, in the modern age we are often at complete odds or trying to battle our natural peaks and troughs in energy. We have two main forms of energy within our body which at different times of the day define how we feel and what we should ideally be doing.

Sympathetic Energy

Our sympathetic energy is largely prevalent in the morning after waking and can be best described as being most prominent at that point in the day when you feel most alert and sharp. Our sympathetic energy system should be triggered by the sun in the morning and is largely to do with the release of Cortisol into our bodies.

Parasympathetic Energy

Our parasympathetic energy is our sleep energy and basically our bodies signalling system to tell us to get to sleep and recover, it is at it’s most prominent at 3am in the morning when we should be fast asleep.  Our parasympathetic system triggers the release of melatonin into our bodies (an anti-oxidant) which is our sleep regulating hormone.

Within our day to day lives many of us end up acting against these natural energies with some of the following:

Stress

Most commonly we apply too much stress to our systems restricting our ability to enter into a parasympathetic state and thereby enable us to relax and recover as we need to. If we apply to much stress to our system the quality of our sleep deteriorates which in turn leads onto the next issue…

Reliance upon stimulants

What we are talking about here is coffee or any drink containing caffeine. If you aren’t in a position to speak to another human until you have consumed a litre of caffeine something is off here. Caffeine is basically supplementing our inability to get into a sympathetic or alert state of being where we are able to function. Further to this folks rely on these stimulants late into the day fighting the parasympathetic energy system sending us signals to sleep and thereby affecting their ability to have quality sleep and end up going to bed ‘wired and tired.’ This leads into the last problem…

Sleep

8.5 hours uninterrupted sleep per night is the ideal amount on average for us although age does affect this slightly. A study by the UK Sleep Council in 2013 stated that only 7% of us are getting 8+ hours of sleep per night with nearly a third of us getting only 5-6 hours sleep a night. Quite simply we need sleep to recover from stress, especially if we are exercising regularly and with some intensity.

What can you do? Some simple fixes to help improve the above:

1.       Listen to your body more when it comes to stress. Don’t battle on through. If you want to keep exercising that is awesome but when that bucket of stress is full make this exercise restorative which means get out in the Sun, walk, hike, enjoy nature and the outdoors, don’t apply more stress to the system.

2.       I LOVE COFFEE. I am the first to admit this but I make sure that coffee isn’t the first thing I do in the morning. Get up and have a morning routine that includes drinking water, movement and then when you want it enjoy some good quality coffee.

3.       Stop supplementing with caffeine for workouts especially when you are training late in the day. Caffeine stays active in your system for at least 6 hours so ideally your last caffeinated drink should be no later than 2-3 pm. If you want a drink in the evening drink a non caffeinated fruit or herbal tea. Avoid decaffeinated drinks. And just don’t drink diet soda at all….

4.       Drawing upon what we spoke about last week allow your body and mind to shut down and get ready for bed. Disconnect from anything that will apply stress to your system and keep you in a sympathetic state (work, online computer games) 90-120 minutes before you go to bed. Establish a nigh time routine and stick to this whenever you can.

The reason we want to improve this energy balance is pretty simple, doing this will enable us to respond better to stress and recover from it. Similarly to the old adage of you ‘can’t out train a bad diet.’ You can’t continually improve and function optimally both in the gym and life in general if you don’t give your body the chance to recover.

Basic Lifestyle Guidelines - Work/Rest

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As we have grown as Coaches we have come to realise that if we can have a positive impact on the 23 hours in the day when you aren’t in the gym we will in turn create the opportunity for you to achieve more when you are in the gym. Our Basic Lifestyle Guidelines are a template from which you can work towards living a more balanced and productive life.

Most of it you will know, nearly all of it is common sense, but so few of us take this advice on board and apply it properly. The habits we will discuss are an ideal, but we know life is what it is so don’t worry if some days go to plan, it really doesn’t matter as the only thing you can control is how you respond and move forward.

Each week we will discuss 1 of the Basic Lifestyle Guidelines, we welcome comments and questions so please ask away at the end!

Basic Lifestyle Guideline 1 – There are 24 hours in a day, apply work and rest appropriately.

With the onset of the digital age we are constantly at the beck and call of email, WhatsApp, social media, etc. Many people now have jobs where they are expected to take work home or respond to messages outside of work. We need to find balance in the day and find a way to switch off from the stress of work and apply rest properly, so we don’t burn out.

Ways to do this are many but the simplest are set out below:

1.       Respond to emails once or twice a day only. Honestly, when are they ever that urgent? An email is only generally ever someone wanting something from you. Set up an auto reply to let people know when they will hear from you and set those times aside to clear email.

2.       Turn off email notifications on your phone. Don’t be a slave to your phone especially when you are at home. Most modern phones have a do not disturb mode which you can program to come on at set times that will allow certain contacts to get hold of you still. Turn this on.

3.       When you are at home be present with your friends and family and enjoy the time you have with them. Schedule family time like you schedule a meeting and prioritise that in your life that over EVERYTHING else. Common trend here but switch off from the phone especially social media.

4.       When at work apply rest periods appropriately. You can get a Pomodoro Timer (Google it) for your browser that will give you scheduled breaks every 25 minutes for 5 minutes then every 90 minutes for 30 minutes. This is to keep you productive and prevent you from burning out. Bonus points for getting outside on those breaks and taking some big deep belly breaths to get you more relaxed.

5.       Also, when at work plan your day and hit the big things early on! Don’t get sucked into responding to emails first thing, be pro-active, do the creative work, chip away at the big project, this will set you up for the rest of the day.

Quite simply when you are at work, focus and get it done, when at rest focus equally on the idea of enjoyment and fulfilment, leave the stress of work behind. I say this all being someone who is self-employed and constantly struggle on a day to day basis to implement these points. I know the days when I do get it right I feel so much better for it but this, like everything else, is a work in progress I also need to credit my own Coach, Matt Connolly for highlighting many of these points and helping me implement them better in my life.

Please ask any questions or add any tips you have come across to help you in the comments below.

Glen Oliver

The Importance of Structured Warm Ups and Cool Downs in Tennis!

Tennis is a sport which when played at any level places massive demands on the body and in players of any level can expose them to overuse injuries and the creation of imbalances throughout the body over time. As with many other sports specific strength & conditioning training is usually the stuff of the elite but this doesn’t and shouldn’t be the case.

Having spoken to numerous Tennis Coaches there seems to be a distinct lack of understanding when it comes to applying structure to warm-ups and cool down periods for tennis coaching sessions, along with a lack of understanding with how to address aches and pains that are common from playing the sport.

My role as a Strength and Conditioning Coach brings me into contact with people who pursue many different sports with different physical demands. When I look at any new client I look at the function and needs of the sport that client pursues and what we can do to keep them in balance and functioning for as long as possible for their overall health.

Tennis in it’s nature will over time create imbalances (especially within the shoulder and core) as approximately 75%* of strikes of the ball come from the forehand. Every one of these strikes biases an internal rotation of the shoulder plus a particular rotation of the trunk. Over time these imbalances become more severe and either result in overuse injuries and compensatory movement due to a lack of balance within the body.

This is one aspect of the sport not even mentioning other injuries within the arm and lower body which are common and can be prevented with the implementation of a balanced strength and conditioning program.

What I am keen to do is introduce a system to everyone within the sport that ensures three things:

  1. Address imbalances within the body created by the sport.

  2. Ensure full range of motion within the body to ensure maximal force production and movement around the court.

  3. Strengthen muscles commonly used within the sport along with sports specific drills to improve performance.

I am in the final stages of preparing a completely free e-book available to all that will have a structured warm-up and cool down which can be used by Tennis Coaches when coaching individuals or groups. It will consist of some very basic exercises that would take the client no more than 10 minutes in total to complete. The beauty of the program is that once shown the exercises the client can be left to complete theses exercises at the start and finish of the every session.

The program will consist of 8-9 exercises with some before a session and some after. The exercises before will be largely concerned with the activation and mobilisation of muscles left dormant in our day to day lives as we spend so much time sitting but which are so crucial to the sport: the scapular, glutes and proper hip function. The cool down exercises will focus on addressing imbalances created through the internal rotation of the shoulder and soft myofascial release techniques using a foam roller and lacrosse ball designed to address aches, pains and tight muscles. You will only need a few very cheap items of kit for the program which will be outlined within the book.

I do appreciate that as a Coach doing something with a client other than on court exercises may be a struggle too but what you are doing here is investing in their long term health and ability to play the sport so hopefully it will be an easy sell. And for those coaches who instruct people 8 hours a day following along with the client at the start and end of every session will help you over time as I know from speaking to many of you how beat up you feel after a long day. Your business relies upon you and your body functioning at it’s best too!

This e-book is the start of what we hope will be a program designed to fully address the strength and conditioning needs of tennis players across the world who play the sport at any level. With most of us having access to gym’s at work, home or part of our clubs it seems to make sense that there should be a program out there designed to help us play the sport we enjoy to the best of our ability for as long as we can!

If you would like a copy of the e-book click on the link below and we will send it out to you when completed (within the next 2-3 weeks):

https://www.route1fitness.com/r1tennis

If you also have any questions strength and conditioning related feel free to contact me below.

Glen Oliver

Co-Owner / Strength & Conditioning Coach - R1F

*Johnson CD, Mc Hugh MP. Performance Demands Of Modern Professional Male Tennis Players. Br J Sports Med 2006

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