In this day in age, you just about have to have been living under a rock to not have heard about the growing concern with and importance of “Self Care.”
People often associate this with sleeping 8+ hours a night, drinking lots of water, maybe taking time to meditate or exercise some, reading a self help book, and the like.
But what does “self care” look like for the busy business professional who cycles 200+ miles a week. Or the mom who runs 5 miles every morning before her husband and kids wake up. Or the graduate student who is training for their first Iron Man.
It is important for most of us to incorporate the standardly encouraged self care tactics into our daily lives, but we also have to go above and beyond to ensure that our bodies recover and function well so that we can continue to pursue our lofty fitness goals!
Here are just a few things that I recommend personally as a DPT and Triathlete.
REST WELL AND LONG: what I mean by this is that you should have been active enough on most days that when you lay your head down on the pillow at night you naturally rest well because your body is tired enough that it recognizes the need for proper sleep. If even after working hard all day you still find it difficult to rest well, consider the amount of caffeine or sugar that you’re taking in during the day, especially later in the day, recognize bad patterns, and adapt accordingly. If you’re still having trouble sleeping, consider putting down the phone or stopping watching TV a little earlier and give your mind a chance to relax from the stimulation before bed, and perform some sort of deep breathing or meditative practice for a few minutes before bed. And give yourself time to get the proper 7-8 hours to get the rest that your but he needs not only to heal damage to tissues from that days work out, but also to rejuvenate the mind.
TAKE ACTIVE REST DAYS: even the most highly trained and driven of athletes rest properly. Some of them have days where they simply go for a walk, or do yoga, or maybe even still do cardio or lift weights, but they don’t go heavy, they don’t go fast, and they let go of the expectation of high performance, allowing them to take an active rest day. These rest days are necessary to allow the body to recover properly and allow the athlete to not over train, which can actually be harmful to progress. Also knowing that you shouldn’t work every muscle in your body every day at the gym is super important. There’s a reason why the best athletes out there have leg days and back days and biceps days and tricep days and cardio days and so on and so forth. Or for us multi sport folks, swimming days and cycling days and running days and transition days and cross training days and strength training days.
FUEL YOUR BODY WELL: even if you’re just starting out learning what your body needs as fuel will make all the difference in your progress and performance even early on. This includes eating a healthy balanced diet full of nutrients and energy producing compounds and being sure to hydrate properly on a regular basis. This does not mean that you have to follow some extremely restrictive and flavorless boring diet to reach your goals. In fact restrictive diets are extremely hard to follow and often are abandoned early on, so they really don’t do any good. Making proper lifestyle changes to move you towards better nutrition is the way to go, but yes you can absolutely still have a slice of cake on your birthday, or a drink with friends, or a burger at the cookout, just treat yourself only in moderation so that your body still has what it needs to help you exist in the best way you can!
STRESS MANAGEMENT: so this topic can be directly affected by a combination of the things that I’ve already told you about. Proper sleep, nutrition, and exercise all play a significant role in managing life‘s daily stresses, whether they be big or small. Often times the body does not recognize the difference between physiological stress and psychological stress and response to them very similarly. And these responses often will directly affect the quality of your health and overall performance as an athlete, so be as aware as you can be about the things in life that cause you stress, and make a conscious effort to adapt accordingly.
Here at OFF THE BLOCK Physical Therapy, not only do we treat what is ailing you as far as pain, but we also advise our patients and clients about best practices when it comes to self-care, because if the rest of your body and mind is not healthy, your pain and your perception of pain can change dramatically, and our goal is to allow you to be free from pain as soon and as permanently as possible. If you’re experiencing some sort of pain today that is limiting your ability to continue to participate in the active lifestyle that you love, please feel free to reach out and book a consultation call with one of our clinicians, we would love to help you get out of pain and back to living as soon as possible!