Sleep and Circadian Rhythm

Regardless of your fitness goal, whether it is weight-loss, muscle growth or sporting enhancement, improving the quality of your sleep can help you to be successful in your desired area. During restful sleep your body goes about repairing muscle tissue as well as processing the day’s activities. In this article we would like to discuss the area of circadian rhythm (your sleep/wake cycle) and offer you some of our top tips for achieving restful sleep.

Circadian Rhythm

Your circadian rhythm refers to your sleep/wake cycle and is influenced by light and darkness. A gland in your brain, the pineal gland, releases different hormones depending on whether it detects brightness or darkness. As the sun enters your eyes the pineal gland releases serotonin which wakes you up and can improve your mood and energy. When the pineal gland detects darkness it releases melatonin, your sleep hormone, thus signalling you to wind down for the night.

For thousands of years this was regulated simply by the sun rising in the morning and the onset of darkness at night. We worked with the natural rhythm of the Earth and its seasons. However, with the advent of electricity, this cycle has been disrupted massively as humans are very rarely exposed to darkness anymore. Between streetlights, smart phones and television screens our eyes are constantly being bombarded by light which can disrupt your natural hormone cycle.

We can, with diligence, combat this by artificially creating the desirable atmosphere and environment. For example, by exposing yourself to brightness the moment you wake, ideally with sunlight, and by creating complete darkness at night you can reset your natural rhythm and thus improve your sleep as well as your mood, energy and appetite control.

Sleep and Physique

During restful sleep your body repairs any micro-tears which are caused from strenuous exercise. By repairing your muscles quickly you make the positive adaptions to exercise that you are looking for and will be able to train again much sooner. A further benefit of sleep is that when you wake with a refreshed mind you are much more likely to make good food choices compared to when you wake feeling groggy and tired. Thirdly by keeping a good evening routine in the evening you are less likely to mindlessly over-consume calories in the through boredom.

Sleep tips:

  • Expose yourself  to light immediately upon waking (ideally sunlight)
  • Avoid caffeine intake after 5pm. Swap tea and coffee for herbal teas
  • Limit the use of phones, laptops and tablets in the hour before you want to sleep
  • If you are going to use your phone, block out the blue light
  • Install blackout blinds in your bedroom and dim the lights as the evening progresses
  • Take any electrical equipment such as televisions and laptops out of your bedroom
  • Avoid strenuous exercise late in the day. Gentle exercise such as walking or stretching is much better before bed.
  • Practice gratitude before bed – each night write down 3 things that you are thankful for
  • Get up 30 minutes earlier than you need to in the morning
  • Take a magnesium supplement before bed with a glass of warm milk
  • Learn to meditate – the ‘Headspace’ App is brilliant for beginners

Good sleep habits and routines are essential if you want to make progress with your fitness, physique and performance so if there is any way that we in UNIT 3 can help you with this please call into us in Naas industrial Estate or give us a call.

Preparing for a 5km Run/ Obstacle Course

Preparing for a Fun Run or an obstacle course can be a brilliant source of motivation for you but can also cause slight anxiety as you can question your ability to complete it. We often think, ‘ Will I be the most unfit person there?’ ‘What if I come last?’ etc. What you need to know is that everyone has these doubts and nerves but if you and take action and prepare properly then you will overcome these limiting thoughts. If you don’t set a date for the event or you don’t push yourself to get out and do something that really challenges you then you will never make progress and will struggle to achieve your goals.

Believe in yourself

When treated with care, your body is capable of achieving far greater heights than you mentally give it credit for. Your body will only stop when your mind wants to give up. So set yourself a challenge will help you break through the mental barrier and show you what you can really push to achieve.

The First Steps

  • Decide on what type of event you would like to do. Look it up online or in a newspaper to find the dates, details, and venue.
  • Be realistic about how long it might take to get ready. 4-6 weeks should be sufficient time to build up to your first event if you are already training away. If you are starting from the beginning then give yourself 3 months.
  • Once you have done your research just book the event without dwelling on it.
  • Read up on the event and find tips on how to make it as fun and easy on yourself as possible.
  • Visualise yourself crossing the finish line and keep telling yourself that you will complete your target.
  • Keep training as you have before but now focus 50% of your training towards the type of event you want to attend.

Support

The key with any event like this is to find some support. You will have days where you don’t want to train but having a training partner, a team or coach will help you on days like this. Whatever you want to do, pair up with a friend and this will help your motivation massively.

Getting Closer

  • Keep your sleep and nutrition on point and if needed improve these even more in the two weeks prior to the event so that you feel your best.
  • If there is any equipment, special clothing or runners that you need, make sure to buy these well in advance so that you can get used to them.
  • If you have any injuries or niggles try to get them seen to by a physio or book in for a massage.
  • Take extra care to get plenty of rest and sleep in the 3 nights before the event.
  • On the morning get up early, have a great breakfast, get to the event well on time, put your game face on and enjoy the success of getting over that finish line.

It will all be Worth it!

No matter how small or large the event/challenge is, once you get through it the sense of pride and achievement will be amazing. It will also help you to aim higher next time. There is no better feeling in the world than getting through something you thought you were never going to be capable of.

If you would like any help to prepare for a fun run or an obstacle course UNIT 3 would be delighted to help. We offer short or long term memberships with no contracts so call into us or give us a call to see if we can help you.

How Boxing can Complement your Training

If fat loss and strength improvements are a goal for a client of ours, we in UNIT 3 will include some form of high-intensity cardio alongside their longer slower sessions. Along with kettlebell swings and sprints, boxing also fits into this category. In this article, we would like to demonstrate how you can use boxing workouts in your training to assist you with; muscle balancing, increased core strength and fat loss.

Muscle Balance

Are you overly reliant on one side of your body? Do you always lift your shopping, write, brush your teeth etc with the same arm? Don’t worry, you are not alone in sharing this habit. Many people develop muscle imbalances over time due to repeating movement
patterns on a consistent basis. A further example of this would be a golfer who hits the ball with the same side every time or a footballer who uses their stronger foot more often. If this imbalance is not rectified it can lead to injuries and discomfort. Boxing is a four limbed sport and one in which we use our weaker hand quite frequently. This can help you to correct and improve on any muscle imbalances that you may have developed from your sport or from general day to day living. The benefit to this is that you
will become stronger overall and will greatly reduce your risk of injury.

Core Strength

A good boxing coach will teach you how to use your full body with each punch and this will help you to develop impressive core strength and rotational power which transfers very well to sports such as golf, hurling and rugby. Furthermore, in our U-Box classes we include a wide variety of interesting core work which will help you to strengthen and tone
your midsection.

Fat Loss

Boxers normally display the lean physique of toned arms and visible abdominals that most
fitness enthusiasts crave. The reason for this is that boxing strengthens all of these
muscles while also burning a large amount of calories per workout. The combination of
stimulating your cardio system and muscular system leads to a high degree of fat burning
and muscular definition over time.

Cardio Improvements

The fitness of boxers is well documented and you only need to hit a bag for 60 seconds to
realise how difficult it is. The reason for their fitness is that they repeatedly work at a
high intensity and only have a short amount of time to recover. We use this same principle
in our UNIT 3 sessions to help give you the same benefit. For athletes, such as runners or
footballers, adding boxing workouts into your weekly routine can give you great benefits
when you go to back to your own sport.

For Sports Teams and Athletes in winter

We are fortunate to work with many teams here in UNIT 3 for their pre-season or Winter
training work. For this we combine boxing sessions with strength and mobility work to help
them to prepare for their pitch work. The benefit of this is that they could get fit without
stressing the muscles and joints that they would need to be fresh later in their season.
If you would like to try a boxing class with us or if we can aid your team in anyway please
call us on 045-856590 or drop in to UNIT 3: Health and Fitness in Naas Industrial Estate to
view our facilities.

Gut Health

Your gut refers to your digestive system and comprises your stomach, small and large
intestines as well as your excretory system.
When your gut is healthy you will be properly able to digest and absorb food and put it to
good use whereas when your gut isn’t functioning optimally you may experience health
problems such as diarrhoea, bloating, indigestion and lack of energy.
As well as digesting food and clearing waste, a further function of your gut is hormone
production. 95% of your serotonin production, your feel good happy hormone, happens in
your gut which gives you a very important reason for keeping your gut healthy.

So what can we do to improve your gut health?

1. The first and most important point is to stop putting irritants into your body. If you find
that common irritants such as; wheat, alcohol, dairy, sugar or caffeine upset your stomach
then you would be advised to remove these from your diet and replace them with
healthier options which work well with you and your unique digestive system. In UNIT 3 we
commonly see that people see quick improvements simply from cutting back on bread and
sugar.

2. The second step is to add a probiotic to your diet. Probiotics are the healthy bacteria
located in your gut which help to digest food. This can be done with a supplement or with
natural probiotic foods such as yoghurts, miso soup or kefir. It is particularly important to
supplement probiotics after being on a course of antibiotics as these wipe out not only
bad bacteria but also your good bacteria.

If supplementing probiotics, look for a product that contains at least 10 billion cultures
with more than 5 different strains of bacteria in it. A great tip which we got from Sigma
Nutrition is to buy 2 or 3 different brands and alternate them on a daily basis so that you
get different strains of good bacteria on a weekly basis, thereby creating a more diverse
probiotic culture in your gut.

Another way to improve the diversity of your gut bacteria is to spend time outside in
nature as the exposure to various bacteria as well as the sunshine is very beneficial to your
gut and immune system.

3. As well as probiotics you can also benefit greatly from adding prebiotic foods to your
diet. Prebiotics are starches which by don’t get broken down in your stomach but instead
go to your intestine where they feed your good bacteria. These can be supplemented but
are also found in foods such as potatoes which have been cooked and cooled as well as
green bananas.

If you would like any help with your nutrition or training please call into us in Naas
Industrial Estate or call us on 045-856590

Golf

Amongst the many sports that we work with in UNIT 3, golf is one of our favourites to
try to help. There are many common areas which we focus on, such as hip mobility, core
strength and power. Because golfers are usually very dedicated to improvement we
commonly see great results in not just your golf game but also your overall health, physique
and mobility. In this article, we would like to share with you some of the approaches that we
take in order to help golfers to move, look and feel their best.

Hip mobility

Many sports, such as golf, boxing and hurling, require movement from the hips in order to
optimally generate power. It is a good step to learn proper technique from a coach but what
if these areas in your body are chronically tight and restricted from years of sitting and a lack
of movement? The hips and spine are an area that we have great experience in helping. The
first 15 minutes of your session in UNIT 3 will be dedicated to loosening any tight muscles
you may have so this simple act alone can greatly improve your golf game and your overall
freedom of movement.

Power

Another key component of sporting success is power, and this is also an area that we focus
on in your UNIT 3 sessions. If all areas of skill are equal, typically the more powerful athlete
will be victorious. Power comes from strength and speed but there are also certain explosive
movements that we can teach you such as medicine ball slams and kettlebell swings that will
greatly enhance your statistics in this area of your game and help you to hit the ball further.

Core Strength

A pivotal area for an athlete, your core is a power generator but also one of the main areas
concerned with injury prevention. In UNIT 3 we define your core as the area around your
torso, your glutes and your stomach musculature. These muscles will be involved in almost
every move that you do so are very important. In UNIT 3 we work on your core on a daily
basis with countless exercises at our disposal so if this is an area you wish to focus on we
would love to help you.

Rotation v Anti Rotation

As stated above, the physical side of golf is largely based on rotation through your core and
hips. With so many repetitions of rotation done on the golf course we believe that you should
counter-balance this in the gym with some ‘anti-rotation’ movements in order to achieve
balance and avoid over-working the same muscles. Anti-rotation means exercises that resist
the urge to rotate. Performing these help you to balance and complement the work that you
do on the golf course so that you avoid over-working the same muscles and therefore lower
your risk of injury. As you can see, strength, mobility and core training can enhance so many aspects of your
golf game, from your power to your stability so if we can help you to improve your golf
performance we would be delighted to help you.

Improving Your Running

In UNIT 3 we work with people who have very varied goals. One which gets presented to us
on a regular basis is people who want to improve their running and we love working with this
goal. Although our sessions are predominantly on weight training and mobility, we find that
many of our techniques translate over to better running. In this article we would like to focus
on four ways that the UNIT 3 coaches can help you to improve your running; posture, speed,
endurance and injury prevention.

Core Strength for Posture

If you observe a runner on their first kilometre of a race and again on their final kilometre the
main differences can be seen in their posture. They start out tall, with everything in line, but
finish up slightly stooped over, almost dragging themselves along. The reason for this is
inadequate core strength to maintain their posture. Without good posture the runner will slow
down significantly and the risk of injury rises dramatically. In UNIT 3 we focus every week on
developing core strength in our members and for runners this translates into faster, safer
and more efficient running.

Strength Training for Speed Improvements

Speed is dictated by how much force you can generate against the ground. The main way to
increase this is to improve your strength. People may have expected us to advocate
improving the power in just your legs but effective running is a full body exercise with your
upper body and core doing a significant amount of work. Evidence of this can be seen in the
muscular physiques of sprinters such as Usain Bolt and Yohan Blake. In UNIT 3 we focus a
lot on improving full body strength and incorporate exercises such as squats, pull ups, push
ups, deadlifts, lunges and planks into our weekly programming. This results in you getting
stronger and can transfer over to improved running speed.

Heart Rate Training for Endurance

One reason that athletes incorporate interval training into their routines is that they can get
used to working at a higher than normal heart rate. This means that when they work at a
lower heart rate it then becomes more manageable and they can maintain this for longer. To
put this into practice, in UNIT 3 we incorporate high intensity exercises such as kettle bell
swings and boxing for short periods of time which allows you to experience working at your
sprinting heart rate. When you then drop back down to your regular running heart rate it will
seem easier than before.

Mobility and Flexibility for Injury Prevention

The first and last sections of your UNIT 3 session every day will be based around injury
prevention and mobility. We teach people how to perform maintenance work on their own
body with tools such as foam rollers and resistance bands so that they can minimise the
chance of injury. Obviously for anything serious we will recommend a doctor or physio but
we find that with an investment of just 10 – 20 minutes every day you will be able to lessen
any niggling aches you have. For runners we specifically work on areas of common
complaint such as feet, calf’s and hamstrings with a number of different techniques.
If you are a runner and would like help incorporating strength work to compliment your
existing training please get in touch with us in UNIT 3 as we would be delighted to help you.
Call us on 045-856590 or drop into our premises Naas Industrial Estate.