It’s funny, here in Colorado people get excited about winter and snow because there is so much this state has to offer that compliments cold weather. Great skiing, beautiful views, and hardly any of the slush and ice that comes with winter in many other places. But many of us aren’t from Colorado, we came from places where winter is nothing more than cold wind and frozen faces. The immediate response for us when we hear ‘winter is coming’ is pretty much negative, but there is one positive thing that winter has meant for those of us not from these parts.
Winter brings shorter daylight hours and longer nights. In fitness we have all heard a term that is associated with winter and cold weather and may not have realized the implications behind it. Bulking. People that are looking to gain muscle mass often choose winter as the time of year to do so. And it makes sense, we wear more clothes so it’s more difficult for people to see that we’ve put on weight.
However, there is more behind winter bulking than covering up the extra pounds. It took me many years of frustration to realize that one of the main drivers of success in the gym is sleep. A healthy 8ish hours of sleep each night can do more for your success in the gym than adding another biceps day into your training. We’ve all heard how the body needs sleep to let the brain recover from the day and reset for tomorrow, but the body itself also goes through a similar process.
Have you ever noticed that when you’ve gone a few days with less than your usual amount of sleep you just feel sluggish, both mentally and physically. You get to work and you seem to have no energy. You get to the gym and the weights just feel heavier. You get home and the last thing you want to do is cook dinner or help your son or daughter with their homework. A lack of sleep will have consequences on everything you do.
Basically, when you sleep, your body heals itself from the strains of the day, if you only give yourself five or six hours of sleep, then the recovery process doesn’t have time to go the full circle. Of course everyone has individual needs and no two bodies are the same, but a safe rule of thumb is to aim for a minimum of seven and a half hours of sleep per night. In fact, it’s not uncommon for competitive athletes to try to get upwards of 9 or ten hours of sleep per night to elongate this recovery period, especially when going through particularly intense training cycles.
So now that we know the importance of sleep, bulking during the winter makes a lot of sense. The sun sets earlier in the day, telling your circadian rhythm (your body’s natural clock) that it’s time for sleep and that sleep can last longer because the sun is rising later in the morning.
Here are some tips to help you get more sleep on a regular night:
- Turn off all electronics before going to bed. The bright light in a dark room simulates a sun like object, thereby messing with your circadian rhythm and telling your body the sun is out and you should be active.
- Take some time to plan your tomorrow. Pack your bags, your briefcase, everything you need to take with you on a regular day, pack the night before. Also, if you have a lot of things that need to be accomplished the next day, write them down and organize them by importance. Packing and making your to-do list for the next day will calm your mind before you go to bed so you’re not tossing and turning all night stressing about everything that needs to happen tomorrow.
- Make your lunch the night before. If you bring your lunch with you, make it the night before, perhaps when you’re making dinner. This will save you time in the morning, and give you less to worry about when you’re trying to get to bed the night before and may allow you to sleep in just a little bit longer.
- Pro-tip: Make your lunch for the week on Sunday nights in bulk and pack them away in five portioned containers. It takes slightly longer to cook a bulk meal, but it’s easier to choose healthier options if you’re making everything at once and will ultimately save you a couple hours during the week.
- Exercise. Exercising during the day will help burn calories and any residual energy you may have at night, making it easier for you to fall asleep. So even if it’s your day off or you’re taking a deload week you should try to practice active recovery by doing some stretching and mobility, light cardio, foam rolling, or lifting lighter weights.
For more tips check out this website. https://www.helpguide.org/articles/sleep/getting-better-sleep.htm
At Kronos, we want you to be successful in the gym. If you’re feeling sluggish or haven’t been seeing the results you want, you may need to check your sleep schedule.
The Kronos Crew