Managing your energy levels

Managing your energy levels

Managing your energy levels to perform closer to your best, more of the time

After a big weekend of physical, mental and emotional exertion, I knew that yesterday was going to be a lower-than-usual energy day.
I took a team of 50+ members of my Facebook group On The Wagon to Wasing Park in Reading for Endure24, the 24 hour ultra marathon I’ve run twice as a solo runner covering 100 miles.
This time wasn’t about distance though, it was about the team.
#OTW started out about 3 and a half years ago and has grown and evolved in that time to become a ‘proper’ community.
Where people support each other, encourage each other, and challenge each other.
Usually it’s all done virtually, though Facebook (!) but this was the first time we had such a big group meeting up in real life.
So from the Friday night to the Sunday afternoon, we camped, ran, ate and rested together, as one big OTW gang and within our smaller teams.
It was an incredible weekend, but also predictably tiring.
After any weekend of physical, mental and emotional exertion, I knew that yesterday was going to be a lower-than-usual energy day.
We know that we need to balance physical exercise with rest, because this is what allows our muscles to recover and grow.
But the same thing applies to emotional and mental exertion. 
After any intense period where you’ve had to be on your A-game, with lots of mental focus where you’re ‘always on’, or in an emotionally charged situation, you need to take time to recover afterwards.
Even being out of your usual environment can elevate those background stress levels.
The survival part of your brain is constantly scanning to figure out if there’s a threat.
When you’re at home this scanner can relax a bit, but you don’t get the same down-time when you’re away in a new environment and can’t predict what might happen next.
And although there usually is no threat, it’s those background levels of ‘on-ness’ that can drain you the next day.

 

Resilience 

Resilience = stress + recovery
Physical stress, emotional stress, mental stress… we need to build in periods of recovery in order to GROW from them.
For me yesterday that meant a day of low-pressure activities.
A later alarm clock and more relaxed morning routine.
Less thinky tasks planned for the day.
Lots of good food, plenty of water and rest.
And minimal pressure to perform.
I think that last one has always been the key for me.
When I know that I’ll likely be feeling depleted, I can avoid getting caught up in negative thoughts and emotions that inevitably occur.
Knowing that they don’t necessarily reflect reality, and that they will pass in a short amount of time.
My energy is definitely on the bounce back today and thankfully I’m not carrying any niggles from the weekend either.
I’ve got my ultra swim-run Frog Graham Round challenge in just 3 weeks’ time, so I’m in full on final-prep mode for that from here.
Any time I’ve felt a bit low these past couple of days, I’ve just looked at this photograph from the weekend as it makes me laugh every time!
Sugar: what happens when we eat it and why cravings are so much worse in the afternoons

Sugar: what happens when we eat it and why cravings are so much worse in the afternoons

What happens to your body (and brain!) when you eat something sugary?

And why are sugar cravings always so much worse in the afternoon and evening than then were in the morning (when you were feeling motivated and focused on your goals!)?

Nutrition is a minefield of controversy, contradiction and cult-like followers of the latest diet.

But one thing that most sane people agree on is that eating too much sugar is bad for us.

I’m assuming here I’m not telling you something you didn’t already know, so let’s cut to the chase.

This 10 minute sugar video explains:

– How we become addicted to sugar

– When insulin drives down our blood sugar levels… where does all that sugar go?!

– Why all that ‘energy’ can actually make us feel sluggish and lethargic

– How sleep, ‘decision fatigue’ and stress all make us more susceptible to caving in to the cravings

Why your willpower drops off a cliff in the afternoons

Why your willpower drops off a cliff in the afternoons

Some people seem to have more willpower than others, but is that really the case?

Do you ever wake up in the morning full of resolve to ‘be good’ only to give in to something mid-afternoon and then write off the rest of the day?

If you’re trying to lose weight or improve your health this can be a bit of a problem and we often put it down to a lack of willpower.

But willpower is like a battery, and it depletes through the course of the day.

The more decisions you have to make and the more stress you are under, the quicker the battery drains until you dip below your ‘people tolerance’ threshold and drive your wagon off the edge of a cliff.

One of the best ways to make sure your resolve lasts right the way through the day is to start paying attention to the quality of your sleep.

The Broken Sleep Cycle

After a busy day – especially one that has been fuelled by copious amounts of caffeine – we usually want a bit of time in the evening to unwind and relax.

The TV goes on, smart phones come out and we double screen our way through another Netflix binge-watch.

A lot has been written about how a ‘morning routine’ can set you up for a productive day.

But a more structured evening routine that promotes higher quality sleep can be just as effective.

Improve your willpower

Here are a few ideas for how you can start to improve your evening routine and sleep quality:

– Switch off screens earlier (especially social media!)

– Do all your ‘chores’ before you sit down to relax

– Bring your lights out time a little earlier

– Take a magnesium supplement an hour before bed

– Write down 3-5 things you have been grateful for during the day just before you switch out the lights

– Take a warm bath or shower in the evening

– Read a (fiction) book for a few minutes in bed

– Reduce the amount of caffeine you drink earlier on in the day

Progress, not perfection

There are loads of other things you could do and it doesn’t have to be perfect.

But a nudge in the right direction here will have a knock on effect on your willpower battery and the decisions you make the next day.

The Frog Graham Round – failure and experience

The Frog Graham Round – failure and experience

When you set out to achieve something and then don’t achieve it, do you regard that as ‘failure’, or ‘experience’?

I got back home this morning after a weekend up in the Lake District.

Yesterday was the day of the ‘Frog Graham Round’ – an epic 40+ mile swim and fell running challenge I’ve had my eye on since January.

An event that I had estimated would take me and my running buddy Guy around 16 hours to complete, but in the end we had to call it a day after only 8.

We were disappointing not to have finished, and although it was a tough decision to make it was absolutely the right one from a safety point of view.

Horrendous weather and very poor visibility made navigation and staying upright a nightmare.

One small mistake of missing a turning left us on the wrong side of an enormous valley, and by the time we had clambered our way back on track again all hope of finishing in daylight had vanished.

Success and failure

On the day that Mo Farah made it 5 straight years of winning the Great North Run, I failed to make it 5 years of successfully completing my own annual ‘big challenge’ series.

4 years ago I ran 10 marathons in 10 days.

3 years ago I ran 100 miles in 24 hours at Endure24.

2 years ago I completed an ironman triathlon.

1 year ago I ran another 100 miles in 24 hours at Endure24.

Yet this year’s ‘failure’ has probably taught me more about myself than any of them.

The 37km of running, 2700m of ascent and 1km of swimming across Bassenthwaite Lake has all given me valuable experience.

More wisdom was gained from our crew team, Nigel & Roger, who both shared their knowledge of the area.

The weather was the deciding factor but the recce also exposed a number of weak points in my preparation… some more painful to deal with than others.

Over the next few days I’ll be mining some of the important biggest lessons from this weekend’s non-completion, and I’m certain that I’ll be back to take on The Frog next year.

Small decisions > consistent actions > results

Small decisions > consistent actions > results

When you think back over the course of your life, where you are today is probably the result of a handful of key decisions.

With your career, relationships, health and wellbeing, or any other area of your life.

You can trace your progress back to these big decisions, where you adjusted your sails and started to move in a new direction.

But simply adjusting your sails isn’t enough – to create movement and change you need WIND.

And this ‘wind’ comes from the dozens of small decisions you make every day, in the direction of your new goal.

Let’s face it, we can all sit here and decide that we’re going to lose weight or get fit.

But without corresponding action nothing changes.

Deciding to have a healthy breakfast.

Deciding to drink a glass of water with your meals.

Deciding to go for a walk at lunchtime.

Deciding to switch off Netflix and go to bed half an hour earlier.

Deciding to spend 5 minutes a day meditating.

None of these decisions by themselves will have a significant long term impact.

But make enough of them, consistently and for long enough, they will carry you to where you want to go.

It’s the big courageous decisions that we tend to remember, but it’s the small day to day actions that result in progress.

I’m moving in with you!

I’m moving in with you for a couple of days…

Imagine it.

We’ll be working out together, cooking and eating healthy food together, coaching, setting up new morning and evening routines, creating systems for planning meals, working on goals, nutrition, training programs…

When I posted this hypothetical* situation in my OTW group yesterday responses ranged from ‘what would I hide first’ to ‘you wouldn’t survive in our madhouse for that long!’

But if it did happen, what would you learn?

Which of the habits or behaviours that are you thinking about right now… do you know are slowing down your progress?

Things that you’re aware that you’re doing (or not doing), but as there’s nobody checking up on you or holding you accountable you let it slide.

Imagination can be a powerful thing.

When I was running a boot camp a few years ago I had a coach who used to get me to imagine I was being filmed for a TV show before every session.

I’d think about that every time I drove to the session, and it made a real difference to the energy I brought to those 0630 workouts!

What would I notice?

If I was to move in with you for a couple of days, what would I notice?

What suggestions would I likely make to help you move towards your goals more easily?

What changes would I make to your environment, your daily habits, the way you manage your energy levels?

If the thought of me sleeping at the foot of your bed fills you with horror, perhaps once you’ve called yourself out on some of these things, you can start to make a few changes all by yourself.

Something to think about as you go through the day today.

*Hypothetical… or is it!

This is a real scenario I’m contemplating putting into action.

Can you imagine it to the point of it becoming a reality?

If so, drop me a line.