Day in and day out, I see many of the same people in the gym keeping with their routines and working hard to achieve their goals. Some are on the stairmill sweating it out and there are some hitting the weights hard, all demonstrating the discipline, drive and dedication necessary to be successful.
These people, just like myself, are investing the time and money into themselves working hard for a purpose. But in the course of conversations with these individuals, I’ve found a common theme that is surprising and the lack of self-care outside of the gym.
There are so many diets and methods of training out there, but you don’t hear many people talking about the importance of how to care for your body when you’re not in the gym.
Everyone knows about proteins and carbohydrates. You can find endless research materials on the proper diets for the vision you have for your body. A simple Google search provides tons of workout routines for any body part with multiple exercise styles and methods. If you want to know what to put into your body and what to do to your body in the gym, people are all too happy to post their direction, but there is so much more involved in taking care of your body.
The work done in the gym is tearing down the muscles in preparation for their rebuilding back up and the food and supplements put into the body are providing it with the materials to rebuild and recover, but did you know that muscle growth actually happens later outside of the gym; for instance, sleep is critical for the body’s fat-burning and muscle reparation process.
Take for example, your fitness goal is to lose weight and you are doing every cardio class available and killing yourself on the stair mill, but you do not get enough sleep on a regular basis. You’re actually working against all the hard work that you are putting in at the gym. Not everyone is the same and some may require more sleep than others; after some time I have learned that I require at least six hours of sleep every night to achieve the change in the scale that I anticipate to reflect that my metabolism is still operating at a high level. Let’s say your fitness goal is to put on additional muscle and you’re hitting the weights hard, pushing yourself to failure with every set, but you neglect to stretch after your workout.
Then you are working against your body.
When you lift weights, the muscles contract and so they shorten and become tight, by stretching after your workout when your muscles are still warm you are first breaking down the lactic acid that has built up, which allows the muscles to relax and then you are increasing the elasticity of those muscles so that they can remain flexible and can continue to perform at a high level. Anyone that has been lifting weights for any amount of time understands the aches and pains that go along with the constant taxing of your body.
I’ve personally found that when I neglect to take the time after my workouts to stretch or use the foam roller that I tend to be more sore afterwards and start to develop aches and pains especially around my joints and at the tendons. So if you ever see me in the gym rolling around on the floor looking all kinds of strange or look like I’m rubbing around on the wall, I’m actually using the foam roller as I have found that the roller helps loosen my muscles up better than stretching alone.
These are just two examples of things that cost you nothing but a little extra time but you’re already in the gym investing in yourself so the extra time is completely worth it so that the hard work gets you the best results.
Now I’d like to talk to you about some more extensive measures of self-care that I honestly did not believe in nor willing to invest in until the last couple of years. They are deep tissue massage, chiropractic and sports medicine therapy. The muscle is surrounded by this casing that can become stiff just like the muscle and the deep tissue massage not only helps loosen the muscle fibers but also softens that casing so that it can stretch and allow the muscles to grow.
The massage is very much like stretching just on a much higher level. Many people are resistant to getting chiropractic treatment and I completely understand why as I’ve found someone that I trust, but when I get adjusted it still freaks me out a bit. However, the benefits far outweighs that feeling. The spine effects every aspect of the body right down to the very blood flow to your limbs and when it is out of alignment then things just aren’t working as well as they should be. When I start to get aches and pains in certain areas, usually my lower back, I can now tell that it is time for me to go see my trusted chiropractor and get an adjustment and after he is done with me, I feel so much better.
And for those with injuries or pains that just won’t let go, I seek out the assistance of my sports medicine therapist where he does everything from ultrasound which gets heat deep down to where it’s needed to electro-stimulation, which triggers the muscles in a way I am unable to do voluntarily. The body is much like a car, you can wash it, put gas in it and drive it every single day but if you don’t get a tune up then it’s simply not going to work as well as it should. So, I encourage everyone to take the time to invest in yourself to the fullest extent so that your time is not wasted and that you can operate on all cylinders.
If you’d like the specific information regarding anything that I’ve discussed here or you have methods of care that you’d like to share, please reach out to me as I’ve love to hear from you and share your stories.