The reality for most living in the city life is faced paced and stressful. Regardless, we want to be happy, we need to perform and we want to see progress. Whether the stress is emotional, mental or physical the same physiological response occurs in which the body releases ‘fight or flight’ hormones. Pressures like deadlines and financial responsibilities heavily deplete our adaptive reserves (battery life) and without recovery we slow down. Poor sleep quality, overconsumption of caffeine, alcohol and poor quality foods are typical catalysts for poor performance. Even your gym routine of hard HIIT sessions can push you further into the red.
Where do you start?
To improve productivity we must first acknowledge what areas are reducing our battery life. Whether it’s punishing gym routines, a 3 month work deadline with poor sleep, the key to your productivity in the gym and at work is stress & recovery management.
When the battery is gone and the ‘brain fog’ sets in; we make poor (and sometimes costly) decisions, our health deteriorates and our emotions get the better of us. In this case, you will need to take time significant time to recharge. If, however, you have the knowledge and strategies in place you can prevent the reserves depleting so it doesn't have such a negative impact.
Resilience to stress will also help keep you more productive. This will be determined on your enjoyment of the job (purpose and passion), your level of mental toughness, emotional control and how healthy you are (sleep, nutrition & exercise).
What areas and strategies can you work on to keep your battery life ‘topped up’? Here are some ideas to help you improve:
Moderate intensity aerobic exercise
Example: walk 2 tube stops to work or take the stairs. Why? This level of exercise is important and easily overlooked. Benefits include better digestion, cardiovascular health and cognitive function.
High intensity aerobic exercise
Manage your intensity and volume. If you have a tough couple of weeks with lots of stress and lack of sleep do some lighter routines- stretch or walk if necessary. Hard HIIT sessions will deplete your reserves and run you down further. On the other hand if you are rested use that as an opportunity to hit training hard to make improvements in your health.
Sleep & recovery
Take sleep seriously. This is where the magic happens with restoration. There are many aspects of sleep to look at. One in particular is your pre sleep routine. Omit blue light before bed, ensure a cool room temperature, pack work or gym kit the night before or turn on airplane mode during bedtime.
If a full sleep cycle is roughly 90 minutes long how many 90 minute sleep cycles are you having? Count back from your alarm time in 90 minutes blocks. Try for 5 a night for a week. Then try 4 a night the next week and see if you function better or worse.
Eg for a 0700hrs alarm you want to be asleep by 1130hrs.
In a good week aim to reach around 35 cycles. If you have a week that lacks sleep see if you can fit in some CRP (controlled recovery periods) aka ‘naps’. 30 or 90 minute CRPs are optimal between 1-3pm or try 30min naps between 5-7pm. If you can’t actually fall to sleep during your CRPs don’t worry, just try to ‘zone out’ and relax for duration. You will still benefit. For more on this read Nick Littlehales Book ‘Sleep’.
Be aware of the negative effects of alcohol and caffeine on your recovery. Most of us like a drink, however, don’t appreciate it takes 1 hour for your liver to process alcohol, or that the half life of caffeine is 5hrs. So if you drink couple of large glasses of wine before bed you could be delaying any restorative sleep for up to 4-6hrs! Not good if you are pushing it hard at work or wanting to see results in the gym.
The fuel we digest will of course have a direct affect on our mental and physical health too. Make sure when the heat is on you are more aware of the decisions you make with what you eat and drink. Whilst we are under stress our decision making part of the brain is suppressed which is why we reach for the glass of wine or chocolate bar when feeling the pressure.
In short, start looking at areas of your life where you can make improvements to your recovery. How can you manage your gym, sleep and nutrition better?