posted on April 30, 2018
It’s time for a health check up…and we’ll start with the basics.
– What are you drinking right now- coffee, tea, energy drink?
We realize that we’re borderline beating a dead horse with this one, but self care is EVERYTHING. I don’t think our staff at UF can stress enough the importance of rest and recovery. We seem to preach it constantly. Some of our other coaches have already shared their self-care stories, and unfortunately (or fortunately), I had my wakeup call last week.
After a regularly scheduled bench session, I started to feel slightly nauseous. This is uncommon for me, so I was a little bit nervous to say the least. I decided to go home early considering that with each burp I was leaning toward the trash can.
I’ll save you the rest of the details, but I drove myself to the ER around 5 am. The doctor did a few blood tests and sure enough, I had light case of rhabdomyolysis.If you’re familiar with rhabdomyolysis, you know that this condition can be gravely dangerous. As I’m sure many of you are not familiar, in simple terms, it is when your muscles release a tremendous amount of waste product that puts damage on your body, specifically your kidneys. If this condition is severe enough it can lead to kidney failure. Luckily, my Exercise Physiology degree came in handy – we discussed the symptoms in class so I had an idea of what might be happening. By getting myself to the ER as quickly as possible, we caught it early before any more serious symptoms set in.
The point of this article is not to talk about how to prevent rhabdomyolysis. And I’ll add this right now: I DID NOT GET RHABDOMYOLYSIS DUE TO ANYTHING I DID IN THE GYM. I subjected myself to this by not taking my recovery seriously. This article is about how we all need to take care of ourselves before something like this happens to you – a serious medical condition that could have been entirely preventable with rest.
When it comes to giving your body rest there are three key components to focus on: (1) sleep, (2) hydration, and (3) nutrition. We’ll call the them the “big three.” Whenever I have a client that says they don’t feel well, we can usually trace it back to Big Three. I know as well as you do that at certain times in our lives these will be sacrificed for any number of things- that project at work or your term paper for school. This isn’t optimal for obvious reasons, but what needs to happen after you’ve sacrificed your health for a commitment is a catch up period after you’ve over extended yourself. My theory is that rest and work need to be a 2:1 ratio: that extra hour you pushed yourself for work, school, or training needs to be followed by two hours of dedicated recovery time.
I can understand if you’re feeling skeptical, but consider my situation. When you are in the gym working hard on those giant biceps, you are technically breaking down muscle fibers. Nothing is being built. When are we actually building muscle then? The hard to swallow answer: when you eat, sleep and hydrate. These three things need to be taken care of to fully to reach your training goals, whether that be the biggest biceps in the gym, your first challenging hike, or getting through a rough Cardio Lab class.
I know you are dying to know what I did to wreck my body. Let’s just say I was not taking care of any of the main three. They say a smart man learns from his mistakes, but a wise man learns from the mistakes of others…I want all of you to learn from my mistakes. To do that, I want each of you to pick one action to take this week that means you’re taking better care of your recovery: sleep, hydration, and nutrition. Maybe that looks like skipping that extra re-run of Park and Rec to get an extra 30 minutes of sleep, or just getting a 12oz cold brew coffee instead of the 24oz, or cutting your workout in half because you realized that the only thing you ate that day was half of a stale bagel you scrounged up in the break room (that you washed down with a liter of coffee, naturally).
Lastly, I know a lot of you are thinking “I ain’t no wuss” – you’re stronger than this, you can’t get something like rhabdo. We are living in a culture where it is “badass” to push yourself to a breaking point. Let me tell you what is not badass. Laying in the ER on your second bag of IV fluid realizing that you won’t be able to compete in the powerlifting meet you’d been preparing for over the past three months. Nobody likes set backs and I don’t want that for any of you. So go ahead take that nap, drink all the water, and make your lunch count. Take care UF’ers.