sleep blog

‘Muscles are torn in the gym, fed in the kitchen and built in bed’

Ever heard that saying? No. Well let me break it down for you, when we train, especially when weight training, the strain we put our bodies under causes tiny tears in the muscle fibres – this is where DOMS or Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness comes in. Most of you probably know that in order for our muscles to recover we need to re-feed our bodies but I think a lot of fitness fanatics probably forget that rest and more specifically a good nights sleep is actually just as important? And I’m not just talking about getting your 8 hours of sleep, I’m talking good quality sleep.

I used to be one of those people who took hours to nod off. As soon as my head touched the pillow I’d have a million and one thoughts swirling round my head – how much money I had in the bank, how my career was going, the email I hadn’t responded too, that thing I said to someone at work or that embarrassing thing I did when I was a teenager trying to find my place in the world (we’ve all been there). And even when I was asleep I was waking up every couple of hours, tossing and turning before hearing the sound of my piercing alarm for the tenth time since I hit snooze. Yep, it wasn’t a good time. I was physically and emotionally exhausted.

So how did I shake it all off and learn how to get a good night’s sleep? 

Well firstly, I started to practice the following every night.

Switch off – Various studies show that looking at a bright screen, such as your iPhone or laptop, can promote wakefulness at night as the blue light on these screens has been shown to suppress melatonin, the hormone that controls your sleep/wake pattern. A reduction in this can make it much harder to not only fall asleep, but to stay asleep – so make sure you shut down about an hour before you fall asleep or better still, make your bedroom a technology free room. Instead read a book, your favourite fitness magazine or go B.T. (before technology) and spend 30minutes writing down some positive thoughts or a to do list for the next day; you could even go one step further and try your hand at meditation – trust me, you’ll feel great the next morning!

Brew up – There are so many bedtime teas on the market these days, all containing calming and relaxing natural herbs such as Camomile, Lavender and Valerian Root. From my favourites, the Clipper Sleep Easy Tea  & Pukka Herbs Night Time Tea, to a simple calming Camomile tea. Or if you have a bit more time on your hands why not try making some Golden Milk or Tumeric Tea which I find helps me to relax whilst giving my immune system a cheeky little boost whilst I sleep.

Make a ritual – Brewing up is actually part of a wider ritual for me. It all starts with mindfully taking my make up off whilst my tea cools, I then switch off my laptop, phone and tv and climb into bed to drink my tea and read a chapter of my book. I finally put some overnight oil & moisturiser on, or my favourite overnight mask by Origins before sinking into my duvet and closing my eyes. Overtime your body will start to associate these things with a good nights sleep meaning that even before your moisturiser has had time to sink into your skin you’ll be deep in the land of nod.

Stick to your bedtime – I’m sorry to sound like your Mum here but it really is past your bed time. Having a decent sleep/wake pattern will help to set your internal body clock and promote a better nights sleep overall. If you already have a good sleep cycle you’ll find that you naturally wake up on weekends at the same time as you do during the week. Unfortunately this means avoiding the snooze button and getting rid of your weekend lie in; but if you’ve ever wondered why you feel even more tired on a Monday morning after a Sunday spent in bed recovering from a late night then that’s why – you’ve thrown your sleep pattern completely out of sync. Try going to bed and getting up at the same time for the next couple of weeks (yes, including weekends) and you’ll be much more awake, alert and productive during the day.

Cut the caffeine – This is often the tough one (I know I struggle), but cutting down on caffeine will certainly help to improve your sleep even if you don’t realise it. Personally I can drink a coffee quite late in the day and still get to sleep at my usual time but I definitely notice a difference in the quality of my sleep when I don’t consume any caffeine after 12noon. Studies even suggest that consuming caffeine as much as 6 hours before you go to bed can have disruptive effects on sleep. So next time you hit that 3pm slump don’t head for the kettle, instead go for a short walk and get the blood flowing or look to your diet – as with most things, a well balanced nutritious diet will really help!

Magnesium – Along with Vitamin B12 this is the one vitamin I religiously take. Magnesium is needed for bone strength and development, and even though (as with most vitamins & minerals) you can get a good source from your diet, if you have an active lifestyle you’ll probably still want to add a supplement. In terms of sleep Magnesium has been shown to decrease the stress hormone cortisol and help muscles to relax and in turn calm the body. If you’re still not sold on taking a magnesium supplement then have a look at your diet and make sure you’re getting enough – you’ll find it in green leafy vegetables, bananas and lots of beans nuts and seeds. 

But please don’t think that it will happen overnight – it takes time for your body to get into a solid routine. And don’t beat yourself up if you fall off the wagon, just get back on track as soon as you can and it’ll eventually become the norm.

Do you have any tips for getting a good nights kip? I’d love to hear your routines below…

Crossfit

If you religiously read my blog or follow me on social media you’ll know that earlier this year I competed in my first Crossfit competition (read it here) at The Rainhill Trials. Even though the weekend was insanely stressful and tiring I have to say it’s the most fun I’ve had in ages. I thought I would be self-conscious competing in front of the crowds of people as I’m not even a fan of coaches watching me in the gym (yes I have issues!) but on the day I completely forgot that the crowd was there and just focused on each wod, each rep and enjoyed every minute of it!

The Rainhill Trials is a Crossfit competition which is actually organised by my box, Train Manchester, so when they put a post on Facebook asking for judges I was happy to oblige. They asked me to complete the online judge’s course first, which having been a Crossfitter for nearly two years now – and being very strict when it comes to judging my own reps in class – was pretty straight forward. And besides if you failed on any questions you were able to go back to the start (just make a note of your right answers as you go along in case you need to do this). Then it was just a case of reviewing the wods before the event to make sure I was familiar with the movement standards required.

team judgement

It was nice that I knew what to expect on the day as this really helped me to relax before the event. When I got to the venue in the morning I put on my judges shirt (which made me feel pretty special!) and headed to the morning briefing where athletes and judges were shown the movement standards and got the chance to ask any questions. Then it was time to get cracking. In order for the judging to be fair we each randomly selected a clipboard with an athlete’s info on it and headed over to the waiting area to collect them. The athletes were all quite nervous so putting their nerves at ease and briefing them on the wods actually helped me to relax.

judge1

I personally judged most rounds so was on my feet from 9am-6pm. It was both physically & emotionally draining, but over the two days I became more confident with my judging and stopped second guessing myself. The head judge had some great advice and said if you are unsure about the rep – call no rep – chances are the athlete will make sure the following reps count. This was indeed true for most of the athletes; although there were a couple who didn’t seem to be able to stand up straight with the weight but under the watchful eye of the head coach I always felt as if I was being supported.

Crossfit rainhill trials

(this woman was badass and won the top category – opening with a 80kg clean complex!!!)

The best thing about judging was getting to watch some great athletes at work which is very inspiring and gave me a lot to think about for my next competition. And the worst? When my athletes rowing machine decided to malfunction in the final!! Thankfully it did eventually kick in after having to manually count a few calories and the athlete kept her cool and continued, putting in a stellar performance *Phew*.

If you’re signed up to judge a Crossfit comp or after reading this are interested in judging one, I’ve listed my Top Tips for you below.

Prepare like you were competing – Get a good night’s rest, have a decent breakfast and most importantly stay hydrated. If it’s well organised they should make provisions so that the judges get some food (& coffee!) and have enough rest. Judging can be exhausting especially if you are expected to judge for multiple days.

Dress comfortably – You’ll be on your feet all day, moving around and squatting beside your athlete to check depth so make sure you dress as comfortable as possible. I just wore my regular Crossfit gear, my train t-shirt and some trainers (plus it’s likely to get hot so take some deodorant!)

If you don’t know ask – If you’ve got any questions, whether it be about how the days runs or a movement standard you’re not comfortable with, then ask. There is nothing worse than standing out on the court pitch floor (not actually sure what you call it) and realising that you don’t actually know what you’re doing. Plus it’s not very fair on the athletes competing, which brings me to my next point.

Be firm & fair – You may feel uneasy no repping someone who is obviously working their butt off but remember there are other people competing who may feel hard done by if they notice someone not correctly performing the movement (or cheating as they will probably see it!). We’ve all been there and it doesn’t feel great.

Be confident – It’s not nice having to no rep someone but if you are judging a competition you’ll probably have to at some point. Make sure you no rep with confidence though. Make the hand signals and quickly tell your athlete ‘stand up properly’ ‘straighten your arms’ ‘reach depth’ – chances are they won’t do it again!

You will make mistakes – Just carry on as normal and don’t let it affect you. We are all human and chances are the athlete will understand. And if they don’t and become aggressive then just call someone else over to deal with it – it isn’t ‘The Games’ and they’re unlikely to be the next Rich Froning so they’ll just have to carry on or move on (and out of the venue).

Enjoy it – Yes these days can be a great source of anxiety but if you don’t enjoy it then what’s the point in being there. Remember you are giving up your time to help out because you love the sport and the community, so make sure it’s time well spent and it’s where you want to be!

Crossfit judges

I’d love to hear your feedback below or if you’ve judged a Crossfit competition then it’d be great to hear how you got on.

You can also catch me on Twitter, Instagram & Snapchat (mybigfitdiary)

Matcha

‘Matcha, Matcha Man, I want to be a Matcha Man’

So I was sent some Matcha by the lovely guys at Vivolife a while back and aside from the odd teaspoon in my morning smoothie I’ve not really put it to good use *not very appreciative Ali!*. I think I’ve actually just been a bit scared of adding it to recipes, especially desserts, as it does tend to have a slightly earthy taste, and with a slight slip of the hand can be extremely overpowering. But… seeing as though Matcha is having it’s moment in the spotlight, I thought I should man up and do a bit of experimenting (I mean I am a healthy food blogger after all).

So what is Matcha?

Matcha is basically a fine ground powder made from Japanese tea leaves. It’s known for it’s range of health and weight loss benefits, and has been used for centuries to boost energy and focus the mind (which is something I’ve needed a lot of lately!)

And how is it consumed?

Matcha has recently gained popularity as a new type of ‘latte’ (basically Green Tea powder with frothed up milk). However, foodies have started getting a bit more creative in the kitchen and have been using this ground powder in a whole range of sweet treats – from muffins and ice creams to truffles and cheesecakes. And seeing as though my Raw Rose & White Chocolate cheesecake went down so well earlier this year I figured why not give a Matcha version a go. 

So if you’re a fan of green tea, think of yourself as a clean eating foodie, or maybe you just like to try new things – this recipe is 100% for you.

Matcha 2Matcha 3Matcha 5


How to make my Matcha & Lime Raw Cheesecake.

Matcha and Lime Raw Cheesecake
Serves 8
A super limey matcha raw cheesecake
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For the base
  1. 1 cup Walnuts
  2. 1 cup dates
  3. 1/2 cup desiccated coconut
For the cheesecake
  1. 2 cups cashews (soaked in water overnight)
  2. 1 tbsp Matcha powder
  3. Juice 1-2 limes
  4. Zest 1 lime
  5. 1/2 cup coconut milk
  6. 2 tbsp coconut oil (more for greasing)
  7. 4 tbsp agave or maple syrup
  8. 1 tsp vanilla essence
Instructions
  1. Add ingredients for your base to a food processor and mix
  2. Grease springform cake tin with coconut oil, and push your mixture down into the tin
  3. Freeze base whilst you make the topping
  4. Drain your cashews and blend
  5. Add the other cheesecake ingredients to the cashews and blend until smooth (you can loosen the mixture with water if needed, adding 1 tbsp at a time, but don't overdo it)
  6. Top your frozen base with the cheesecake mixture, sprinkle with some more lime zest and freeze for 3-4 hours
  7. Take the cheesecake out of the freezer at least 30mins before eating to soften
  8. Et Voila
My Big Fit Diary http://www.mybigfitdiary.com/
 Don’t forget to follow me on Twitter & Instagram and I’d love it if you tag me in any pictures of my recipes and let me know how you get on below – hope you like it!

JimBag

Born and bred in Manchester this Northern brand is taking over – with it’s play on words and array of colours from monotone to neon, this practical yet stylish bag is everywhere. Next time you’re walking down the high street or visiting your gym keep an eye out for this up and coming brand, I bet you’ll see at least one!  I recently caught up with founder Anthony to see where his inspiration came from and what else is in store for the brand.

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run

‘What’s her secret?’

That question is often asked of the fit and healthy. I’m sure you’ve heard it before, and I’m more than certain you’ve asked it once or twice too (I know I have). But is there really a secret?

If you’re reading this I’m sure you’ve already figured out that there’s not some secret magic pill that gives Kayla Itsines her rock hard abs, or Sam Briggs her engine. No, it’s simply down to a good work ethic and a thirst to succeed. 

Read on for my Top 10 not-so-secrets:

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