Wednesday, September 25, 2013

My First Foam Roller Experience

I'd been thinking about getting a foam roller for quite some time. What is a foam roller? It's pretty much what it sounds like - a piece of foam in a cylindrical shape. You can use it to do various exercises that roll it over your muscles, and you get some of the same benefits from it as you would get from a massage. They're suppose to improve circulation, release muscle knots and tightness, and improve muscle recovery after workouts.

Since muscle tightness seems to be a regular thing for me anymore (even with stretching at the end of every single workout and dedicating one day a week to just yoga and stretching exercises), the foam roller seemed like it was exactly what I needed. While shopping at Meijer the other day, I wandered over to the fitness section of the store just to see what they had. Lo and behold, they had a foam roller for $20, so I grabbed it.

When I got home, I was disappointed to find that the roller didn't come with any sort of instructions on how to use it, however, it was easy enough to find "how to use your foam roller" videos on Youtube. After my regular workout, I anxiously loaded up one of the videos and started following along.

Within about two minutes, I was wondering what in the world I had gotten myself into. Not only did I need to contort my body into uncomfortable positions in order to get the roller where it needed to go, but using the darned thing HURT. It's the a good thing I was the only one home at the time, though I think I scared the pets with my constant shouts of "OW OW OW!" I guess that meant I was really in need of a foam rolling. A few of the exercises actually felt good - the ones on the back of my legs - but the rest? I'm dreading the thought of doing them again.

On the plus side, I felt pretty good when it was over. My muscles were extremely relaxed, and I slept GREAT that night, which I desperately needed. I've read that some people do foam rolling every single day, but I think I'm going to stick with once or twice a week for now.

Friday, September 13, 2013

Working out When Sleep Deprived

Like most people, every now and then, I have periods in which I don't get much sleep. I'm going through one of those periods right now. I work at a high school during the school year, and school just started last week. Most high schools start classes ridiculously early in the morning, and my employer is no exception. It takes me a few weeks to get used to getting up at 6:00am. Even if I go to bed by 11:00 or so, I lay there unable to fall asleep until after midnight. I'm naturally a night person, and when left to my own devices, I go to bed around 3:00am and wake up around 10:00am.

Anyway, at first, I debated whether or not to continue exercising, or if I should take a break and resume once I've adjusted to the new schedule. The vast majority of fitness websites and bloggers will tell you, "Sleep is important! Take a break and get caught up on sleep!" Of course sleep is important. It's when the body is recharging and when most muscle growth and recovery takes place.

Unfortunately, the advice to "take a break and get caught up on sleep" is geared more toward people who have a bad night of sleep every once in awhile. It's useless to those who, like me, are trying to adapt to a new schedule. It's even more useless to those with insomnia and other chronic sleep issues, because getting caught up on sleep may not be as simple as these folks make it sound. There's also the fact that regular exercise can help people with sleep disorders eventually get more and/or better sleep.

I decided that I'm certainly not going to stop working out for these few weeks. Whenever I stop for that long, I have a heck of a time trying to get back into it. It's exactly why I'm in the shape I'm in now. I'm even still doing my TurboFire workouts. For those who aren't familiar with TurboFire, Chalene, the instructor, will say, "You're not tired!" once or twice during the workout. The first time I heard that after a night of only 4.5 hours of sleep, I thought, "Yes, I am tired!" I still got through the workout, but I had to do it with less intensity than normal.

When I get between 5 and 6 hours of sleep (which is most nights as of late), I can exercise at pretty close to my usual intensity. I do it when I get home from work, and I may feel like there's no way I'm going to get through it when I start, but I do get through it. It also energizes me so that I can get through the rest of the day. I don't think I'd be able to do any heavy strength training while sleep-deprived, but the resistance band workouts that come with TurboFire are fine.

I think the good old "listen to your body" advice is probably best when wondering whether or not to exercise when you haven't had enough sleep. For some people, exercising in a sleep-deprived state may be a bit too much. For others, it will give them an energy boost, and may even help them improve their sleep.