By Dr. Mike Roussell
The first time I ever did a Tabata style workout, it was all out front squatting a 90LB Sandbag - 20 sec on / 10 sec off for 4 minutes. This was a mental and physical test, but my biggest challenge was sitting down for the next 4 days.
The new year means new challenges. Many of us kick off January and February with new fitness and performance goals. You could have just joined TNT, signed up for your first Challenge, or want to build strength and endurance to pass the GORUCK BFF Test. Whatever you are trying to achieve this year is going to push your body to grow and push past limits that it never has surpassed before.
This growth is going to create a new set of challenges on a day to day basis that you will need to overcome to achieve your larger physical fitness goal. These challenges can be annoying, debilitating or a non-factor depending on how you handle them. Below you will find a collection of strategies that you can pick and choose from to ensure that you can fully attack your new resolutions and goals day in and day out.
With any new physical endeavor you are going to have new levels of soreness. How sore will you be? That really depends on three factors - the magnitude of change between your old routine and your new one, the volume of activity you are doing now, and the level of intensity that you are applying to your training. The greater these 3 factors are, the more sore you are going to be. Here’s how to adapt faster…
Sleep - Our body sleeps in a series of repeating 90 minute cycles each night. Deep sleep is an essential part of this 90 minute cycle. This is your physically restorative sleep, the kind of sleep that wipes away muscle soreness. If you are dealing with high levels of soreness, more sleep is a no fail solution.
Magnesium - Magnesium is an essential mineral that is a consistent struggle to get enough of. When exercising intensely we need to hit our magnesium dietary targets. This means eating ample dark leafy green and nuts/seeds each day. When it comes to muscle soreness, clinical studies show that supplementing with 350mg of magnesium per day helps reduce these aches.
It may seem normal to have lower energy levels when you boost your training effort and volume but that doesn’t have to be the case. As your body begins to adapt to your new level of training, you need to adapt some of your lifestyle as well to support this. Here’s how to cure low energy…
Calories - You need to, smartly, feed your machine. Low energy is a very common symptom of underfueling. When you significantly increase your training and physical activity, you need to increase your fueling accordingly. It is important to recover smart with protein after training, and not skip meals. The body doesn’t like to have a big gap between the calories that you are expending vs. the ones that you are eating. When this happens your energy levels and performance will be the first things to suffer.
Sleep - Again, with sleep! Low energy in response to increased physical output can be a sign of the body’s recovery mechanisms being overloaded. You can support this by getting more sleep at night. A 2011 study found that when in-season Stanford basketball players increased the sleep to 8.5hrs per night they improved their sprint times while also reporting higher levels of vigor and reduced fatigue.
When you start training more, generally one of two things will happen. You will sleep like a baby, or you will have a hard time getting to sleep. If you fall into the latter category this can happen because your body is producing more adrenaline (and related hormones) that leave you feeling more wired than you are usually used to. Here’s how to chill and get to sleep…
Static Stretching - Static stretching may not be good for improving flexibility or preventing injury but it does a good job at stimulating your parasympathetic nervous system. This directly counteracts the fight or flight response that your training brings. A simple 10 minute stretching routine before bed can help bring your body down to another level of calm, helping you better prepare for sleep.
L-theanine - The increased adrenaline that comes with new bigger training programs can be even greater if you are eating less (e.g. you are also trying to lose fat). This can make winding down for bed a challenge that L-theanine can help solve. L-theanine is an amino-acid-like compound with relaxation properties that is naturally found in tea. Unfortunately, the amount in tea isn’t enough to give you the effect that you are looking for, so supplementation is warranted. 200mg of L-theanine has been clinically shown to promote relaxation while also boosting sleep quality.
Don’t let increased soreness, lower energy, or a little trouble sleeping deter you from achieving your fitness and performance goals this year. Apply the above strategies as needed so that you can keep going full steam ahead with your training to make 2023 your best year yet.
Dr. Mike is known for transforming complex nutritional concepts into practical nutritional habits that his clients can use to ensure optimal performance and long-lasting health. He holds a degree in biochemistry from Hobart College and a doctorate in nutrition from Pennsylvania State University. In addition, having published over 500 articles on health and nutrition, Dr. Mike has authored and/or served as the consulting nutritionist for 10 books about health, nutrition, and performance. He’s been a member of our GORUCK community since 2014 when he participated in several GORUCK Challenges and a part of GORUCK Tribe since its inception.