But, there are other issues I’ve been thinking about lately, and I’m not sold on the idea that a nonspecific chance at improved health is the best reason to train. It’s certainly a benefit, but there are no guarantees, and there is a clear difference between a reason and a benefit. That’s a topic for another time.
If it actually was about health, people would talk about it all quite differently. You don’t hear people talking about the importance of sleep half as much as you hear people trying to push diets and exercise programs, and that’s because you can’t be a bad-ass at sleep. Seriously, who is impressed by that? It doesn’t make you feel like you’re dominating the world, like you’re the one calling the shots.
When you make an effort to provide yourself with ample opportunity for sleep, you can’t wax lyrical about how disciplined, dedicated and serious you are about health, you can’t boast about your commitment, you can’t brag about your work ethic – it is only the simple act of genuinely looking after yourself – if you ever mention to anyone that you’re trying to get enough sleep, or worse, that you’re making an effort to sleep in, people often respond dismissively, saying things like “it must be nice to have so much spare time” or something else that’s vaguely condescending.
But so often we want to be bad-ass, dedicated, self-righteous trainees, and so we just focus on the hard work, thinking that missing out on sleep and getting up early to train Plyometrics (explosive strength) without bothering to warm up is a good idea. We spend our time thinking wanting it harder is what’s going to make it happen. We turn off our brains, because the fitness industry tells us over and over that what we need to do, if we want that lean, sexy look, is not to think, it’s just to do as we’re told and work harder.
But in reality, the only point to that mentality is subjugation. It’s not improved health. You can’t turn off your brain and expect it to benefit you in the long term.
If it actually was about health, the entire discourse would be completely different, and we would value being kind above being hard, being forgiving above being judgemental, and we’d try to do what we could, while acknowledging that health and sickness are not actually these solid states that can be controlled.
But the fitness industry is mostly concerned with money – y’know, it is an industry – and of course the good money is in fear and insecurity, the exploitation of said fear, and the delivery of false promises and hopes, and so we are told that if we’re doing anything that we actually like, that actually feels good, that somehow we’re doing it wrong and it’ll make us sick.
We have come to see food – that thing that keeps us alive – as an evil, corrupting force, and we have come to see exercise as an indicator of righteousness. It’s absolute crap. The fact that you train does not make you better than anyone else. It can’t, because the choice to exercise is not a moral one.
You can’t get very much money out of someone by telling them to sleep more. You can’t shame them for not sleeping enough, because we wear ‘hard work’ like it’s a badge of honour. You can’t take the moral high-ground when you sleep more than anyone else, even if it’s exactly what you need to do for ‘improved health’.
Your tissues repair and grow while you sleep. You recover systemically, your body detoxifies, all that good stuff happens during sleep. Sleep makes up a vital component of programming for athletic progression, and is good for you, but - like massage therapy - anything beyond the bare necessity is treated merely as an indulgence.
While you’re asleep or when you are eating are really the only chances you have for your body to build, not in a ‘bodybuilder’ sense, but in the sense of repair, recovery, and enabling the positive adaptations you were hoping to stimulate by training. Everything else you do in life taxes the body.
Take care of yourself. Eat and sleep.
Anyway, that’s enough for now. I used to feel terribly guilty about sleeping excessively (whatever the hell that is), as if I was wasting time that could have been spent more productively. Now I’m a huge fan of the guilt-free nap.