Tag Archives: recovery

Impact of Sleep Deprivation – TEDx talk

May 11, 2015
By: T.J. Murphy
Published at lavamagazine.com

At a recent lecture given in Austin, Texas, Dr. Kirk Parsley – an MD with credentials that extend from serving as a Navy SEAL to completing half-Ironmans – posed the following question:

Between the types of activities you may track in a training log, like diet, training and sleep, what has the greatest impact on your performance?  There’s no comparison, Parsley said:

Sleep is the most important factor.

Link to the full article at lavamagazine.com



Key performance gauge from Dr Parsley’s TEDx talk ( @ 5:30 in the video):

Running 18 hr days (i.e. 6 hrs of sleep), translates into performance on par with a blood-alcohol level of 0.05.

Pulling an all-nighter translates into skill execution on par with a blood-alcohol level of 0.08 – 0.10.


In Canada it is a criminal offence to drive with a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of 0.08, or 80 milligrams of alcohol in 100 millilitres of blood.  Think about that for a moment….


How many of us are going through life ‘half drunk’, all the while believing that we are healthy and fit?

In addition to the lack of sleep*, add the North American average of 1.5 servings of alcohol a day and we are 100% inebriated 100% of the time.**   If the candles weren’t burning brightly enough at both ends, we finish our days with HIIT workouts, use NSAIDs and painkillers to round off the edges, fall to an illusion that we are prime specimens of athleticism and call this a normal, active, fit & healthy lifestyle.

What does this say about how we as a society function at work, at school, in relationships, while working out/training, while parenting and while driving?  We claim to enjoy quality lifestyles, yet with what clarity can we possibly be living and making decisions if we are constantly ‘under the influence’ of a lack of sleep?

Regardless of how healthy we think we are, how much effort we make to eat well, how consistently we exercise, how many supplements, smoothies, and shakes we consume, how often we get a massage, an adjustment, or other health intervention, even with time spent meditating or practicing mindfulness… it doesn’t really matter if we don’t get enough sleep.

If you are not serious about sleep, then you cannot stake claim to being serious about your health, being at your best or delivering your best.

If you are an athlete – age group, masters, or pro – and if you are not serious about sleep, then you are not serious about your training, nor delivering your peak potential in competition.

Funny isn’t it?  We seek the highest quality in our grocery items: organic, grass fed, free range, antibiotic and HGH free; we seek the highest quality in our sports gear: only top of the line equipment, clothing, and sports nutrition products; we seek the highest quality in our technological devices as we upgrade with each new release of hardware and software; we expect the highest quality from others when receiving service; but, when it comes down to seeking the highest quality from ourselves… we cut short on the single most important aspect to our own peak performance:  sleep*.

To find more posts on sleep, click on the ‘sleep’ tag below.

*  http://sleepfoundation.org/media-center/press-release/annual-sleep-america-poll-exploring-connections-communications-technology-use-

** http://www.slate.com/articles/health_and_science/medical_examiner/2014/10/how_much_alcohol_do_americans_drink_consumption_predicts_alcoholism_and.html

How Much Do The Pros Sleep – HuffPost

2014 August 13
By: Jordan Schultz
Published at huffingtonpost.com


These Famous Athletes Rely On Sleep For Peak Performance

  • Kevin Durant (basketball) – 8 hrs of sleep per night
  • Larry Fitzgerald (football) – 9 hrs
  • Usain Bolt (athletics) – 8 to 10 hrs
  • Michelle Wie (golf) – 12 hrs on average, not less than 10 hrs but once slept 16 hrs
  • Russell Wilson (football) – 7 hrs
  • Rafael Nadal (tennis) – 8 to 9 hrs
  • LeBron James (basketball) – 12 hrs
  • Steve Nash (basketball) – 10 hrs + naps (1/2hr to 2hrs on game days)
  • Michael Phelps (swimming) – sleeps in a tent simulating 8,000-9,000 ft of altitude
  • Kurt Busch (Nascar) – 8 1/2 hrs
  • Derrick Rose (basketball) – takes a 3 hr naps before every night game
  • Andy Murray (tennis) – 12 hrs
  • Roger Federer (tennis) – 11 to 12 hrs
  • Amar’e Stoudemire (basketball) – 8 hrs
  • Earl Watson (basketball) – 8 hrs
  • Lindsey Vonn (alpine skiing) – 9 hrs
  • Maria Sharapova (tennis) – no special training ahead of Grand Slam, except extra sleep

Click here to link to the article at Huffington Post

Average sleep for these pros: 9.5 hours per night, naps not included

To find more posts on sleep, click on the ‘sleep’ tag below.

Stress Adaptation & Overtraining [5]

This is our family dogvin.  He is a Vizsla – a Hungarian pointer – who typically spends about 20-22 hrs a day on the couch, on the floor, on our bed, out in the yard on the grass or on our daughters bed sleeping.  The remaining 2-4 hrs a day are spent eating, begging for something to eat, or looking to see if there is anything he missed to eat either in his bowl, in the kitchen, or around the dining room table.

He doesn’t head to the gym to do weights, on a rare occasion he does a few laps of the back yard to stretch out, he doesn’t do yoga or body weight resistance classes nor HIIT (hi intensity interval training), although he does stretch and yawn when switching between sides when sleeping but I wouldn’t count that as training.  He lacks goals, he never visualizes, never repeats any motivating mantras (as far as I’m aware), but when we head out for a walk, and let him off the leash, he goes gangbusters until the moment he is back on his leash.

Last weekend we were on the Bruce trail for a walk.  For over an hour, our dog ran back and forth on the trail, up and down the escarpment, chased chipmunks, explored a dry creek bed, and everything else that caught his attention.  For over an hour, our dog did an all in one training session – a fartlek, interval, hill repeat workout – and did it over varied terrain, a range of gradients, with variation in rest between efforts, with minimal loss of energy, no lack in the enthusiasm department, and not once requesting to slow down or stop.  How?

How many athletes train daily, sometimes twice a day in hopes of having speed and endurance which feel endless, and when training doesn’t yield the desired outcome, instead of reassessing, they double down on training as if a lack of training is the culprit to their lack of success. The go-to solution for many athletes and coaches is typically more training.  Harder, longer, faster, whatever it needs to be… just more.  If still not enough, then more of more is the next go-to solution.  There is definitely a volume and an intensity level of training that needs to be completed to compete, but load sessions are only ½ of the equation:

The Training Effect = Load + Rest

Think of it this way… breathing is made up of both inhalation and exhalation.  What would happen if all you did was inhale, never exhaling?  Beyond a point your body wouldn’t tolerate your nonsense and would shut down the experiment, you would explode exhaling until your lungs felt empty.  It is no different with training… if all you do is train, rarely taking the time to rest fully, your body will start to offer warning signs, and if those are not respected, it will work to end the abuse.  How?  Its different for everyone, we each have our own ‘weak’ link, our own warning system: a nagging pain, a cold which refuses to go away, a few extra lbs of weight, stiffness, becoming moody, sluggish, etc… When we refuse to heed the warnings, instead popping a painkiller or muscle relaxant, cold medication, psyching ourselves up with a good stiff self-talk reminding ourselves of our goals, our responsibilities – because simple, free, readily available rest cannot be the solution, right? – we break down our bodies causing injury, burn out, or a max out.


Loading the body more and more, with little to no rest does not equate to the training effect, in fact it leads to the exact opposite: The Untraining Effect.


The Untraining Effect occurs as a result of insufficient and/or inappropriate healing, rebuilding, restoration, and rejuvenation due to a lack of recovery between load sessions.  The outcomes are known by all athletes because every athlete at some point overreaches without adequate recovery resulting in overtraining side effects.  It is the point where energy levels become lacklustre, performance in workouts becomes sloppy, slow, lethargic, forced, and when the goals for the season become an uninspiring burden, not a motivating reason to head out the door. Even the solution – sleep – becomes restless, broken, difficult when we are stretched too thin for too long.  Eating changes either to binges, to meals inspired by craving, general overeating, or the opposite, minimal eating as appetite disappears.

When we desperately desire the end product (over process), we drive ourselves too fast, too hard, too soon hoping that if we only try more, results will arrive sooner.  Worse, we will even push harder in these moments in an attempt to try to force results to happen.

In the short term, The Untraining Effect can be easily reversed with rest, but usually more rest than athlete and coach are willing to accept.  When the rest is cut short, and training resumed – usually because anxiety or panic sets in with a competition approaching – the result is training limbo where there is just never quite enough rest to allow full recovery.  In time, this limbo becomes a negative training spiral where the exit is unfortunately found when the athlete gives up, quits the sport, becomes injured and unable to return to the sport, depressed and unwilling to resume training, and/or ends up suffering from subclinical symptoms or a full blown medical diagnosis.  Unfortunately, the array of supplements, stimulants, and medications available today serve only to prolong the limbo by masking the damage being done under the hood.

Over the long term, The Untraining Effect becomes less and less easily reversed (see Stress & Overtraining [1] – article Part 2 on hormonal changes with sustained overtraining).  When the lack of rest becomes persistent, the body must compensate to maintain function:  hormones, pH, breathing pattern and rate, neurotransmitter supplies, nervous system sensitivity all undergo adaptations (none of which are healthy, and many of which lead to the lifestyle diseases overwhelming western cultures).


Exercise can not only be unhealthy, it can lead to injury, illness, and dis-ease when not balanced by full recovery.


Our dog knows how to be healthy.  He knows how to have both an amazing day enjoying the outdoors, and how to recover: sleep, loads of it.  Try it out for yourself. Get sleep, good quality uninterrupted sleep each and every night, at least 8 hrs, more if you are younger, and even more if you are in any form of training (adults included).


Kenyan born, Dutch long distance runner and World Cross Country(2006&2007), Half Marathon (2005&2008), and Road Running (2006&2007) Champion Lornah Kiplagat slept 16 hrs a day during the most intense periods of her training.


American long distance runner and American record holder in the marathon and half marathon Deena Kastor slept 10 hrs a night and napped an additional 4 hrs a day when logging 140 mile training weeks.


If you are even remotely serious about excelling – in sport, in music, academically, in your profession, or simply in being healthy – then there is no short cutting sleep.

To find all posts in this chain and others on this topic, follow the tags: ‘stress’ & ‘overtraining’.  

To find more posts on sleep, click on the ‘sleep’ tag below.

Stress Adaptation & Overtraining [4]

Is your training unproductive?  Are you working out, perhaps pushing harder and harder and nothing sticks?  Are your split times stagnant, or worse slowing?  Is your power output and endurance faltering?  Before you review training data, what about reviewing your sleep data.

How many hours of sleep are you getting consistently?  Is it straight or broken?  Do you find it easy to fall asleep?  Are you falling asleep or collapsing into bed, or do you toss and turn waiting for sleep to arrive?  What about falling back asleep if you wake up in the night?  Is waking up easy? Sleep quality is as important as training quality.  When sleep quality diminishes then training quality already has or is about to deteriorate.

In order for your training to be productive, your body and mind need to start workouts rested and ready to learn, think, and work.  A lack of sleep precludes total recovery between training sessions and prevents a receptive state to deal with the challenges and stresses of training.  If you haven’t recovered from your last workout, then piling on another one is not going to have a positive effect, in fact you are risking starting into a negative training spiral.

It happens to all athletes at some point… your ‘A’ race is fast approaching, your training has been inconsistent due to work/school priorities or life in general, so stacking workouts one on top of the other is somehow rationalized as logical.  But you cannot ‘cram’ your way into peak performance.

Athletes often get overwhelmed with pre-performance anxiety, recounting negative feelings and images from a prior poor performance.  Feelings of guilt, disappointment, anger and frustration are anticipated as doubt begins to overshadow any remaining enthusiasm and belief in executing a desired performance.  Lack of emotional stability, unrealistic goals, doubting race readiness/training impair an athlete’s judgement in the final weeks of training ahead of their event. The unfortunate result is that athletes increase training intensity exactly when it needs to be tapered, and increase training volume when sleep, rest, and recovery are the priority, all in a futile attempt to right perceived training wrongs.  It is not uncommon for inexperienced coaches to panic, to doubt their own programs wondering if the training they prescribed has been appropriate, and if the objective will be met or if the season will be lost in vain.

Sleep probably doesn’t even register as a form of training with many athletes or coaches.  Yet sleep is as important and as beneficial to peak performance as time spent in the gym, on the field, the road, the track, or the pool.  To encourage athletes to sleep, to nap, to rest, coaches need to have their athletes log sleep hours along with training hours, in this way, rest is neither skipped nor discouraged.

In fact, if peak performance is desired, then as a coach I would go so far as to ban an athlete from training if they fail to consistently obtain sufficient sleep.  What’s the point of training an athlete who seeks consistent flawless execution but is repeatedly tired, weak, unable to focus, and lacks clarity in their priorities?

The reality is, if you don’t sleep sufficiently, then you have no goal of peak performance.

The training effect does not occur until and unless there is adequate rest, and sleep is the optimal form of rest.  Rest allows the body to physically heal and rejuvenate, allows for the neurological integration of new patterns of movement improving technique, coordination, balance, increases neurotransmitter supplies improving agility resulting in faster turnover and higher power output. Its simple: it takes time for the body to do all of this, and it takes energy and focus to do it right.  If the body is not given time to recover, then subsequent training sessions will not build on top of prior sessions: there will be no training effect. Instead working out – because at this point you cannot call it ‘training’ – will serve to take an already weakened, tired, fatigued, and sloppy body and debilitate it further.

Is your training unproductive?  Maybe its has nothing to do with your training, and has everything to do with a lack of rest, recovery, and sleep?

To find all posts in this chain and others on this topic, follow the tags: ‘stress’ & ‘overtraining

2015 Pan Am Track Cycling @ Velodrome in Milton ON

The velodrome in-field where athletes warmed up and cooled down…


Athletes warming up on rollers, awaiting their events…


Track Start Technique

Sprint finishes can come down to hundredths, even thousandths of a second and proper lunge technique at the line was the difference between moving on in qualifying heats.  Bike handling skills were paramount as athletes dueled for the optimal line by weaving behind the other using the entire width of the track and its 42o bank to try to outwit the other only then to sprint shoulder to shoulder in the final all-out to the finish at speeds no less than 64 kph…


Canadian Track Cyclist Monique Sullivan at the start of the Kierin (wearing red flame helmet designed by a friend)…


The heat took a few times to get through as sometimes even the pros fall.  The fact that the pros do fall demonstrates the value of bike handling skills to avoid the falls of competitors, and to avoid sustaining an injury which could take an athlete out of competition…

Monique immediately after winning her event, and after a couple of laps on the safety, starts her cool down on the in-field on a road bike…



Canadian Track Cyclist Remi Pelletier’s Omnium Flying Lap

Athletes would initiate their cool down immediately after their event with a couple laps on the safety just to slow down.  At the exit point off the track, their coach would be waiting with their road bike so that they could switch and cool down on a bike which has gears. Cool down was fascinating to watch as not only did it serve the physical purpose of flushing the body of the effort, but it appeared as a step for athletes to cool down mentally and emotionally as well.

The energy in the velodrome and the intensity of the events left us as spectators excited, almost edgy; so athletes who are on the receiving end of the foot stomping, stand shaking, flag waving energy of a cheering crowd need to come down after their events to recover, refresh, rest, to refocus on upcoming events.  The speed of the cool down was so slow that for a moment you could mistake it for a children’s merry-go-round at the CNE.  In the context of needing to come down off the ‘high’ of an event, the speed makes complete sense and raises the appreciation of the importance of cooling down and how it should be done.

Lesson learned…

Cooling down between events, or after completing a day of competition should be looked upon not only as an aspect of physical recovery, but equally as mental and emotional recovery: a time to let go of what just happened – both successes and failures – allowing the athlete to empty, free themselves to be ready to press forth to that which lies immediately ahead.  Even if there is no additional competition that day, starting the recovery process with a proper cool down can move an athlete beyond the emotion of the results, allowing them to complete post competition analysis objectively identifying targets for upcoming training.

Cooling down either completely at the end of a day of competition, or partially between events is a strategy which also applies to training, as the ability to recover between intervals is key to developing consistency.  To be able to do so free of the success or failure of the prior repetition, being able to remove judgement until an appropriate time, being able to be fully engaged in the moment allows athletes to learn to recover quickly: physically, mentally, and emotionally.

The ability to recover quickly was apparent at the velodrome as falls were not uncommon and athletes had to shake them off, get back to the start line, and be fully ready to compete.  Those who didn’t fall had to refocus, psyche back up to give the event their fullest attention as if it was the first call to the start line.  The day of competition is no place to learn or to test out refocusing strategies, again, proper cool down training and recovery training between intervals can set athletes up to have an edge that their competitors simply haven’t developed.  With events won or lost by hundredths or thousandths of a second, more often then not, edges are what define consistent peak performers.

Unfortunately, cooling down is left by many age group athletes to the showers, and for many masters athletes to the pub; yet cooling down is as integral to consistent peak performance as anything else.  It is such a simple strategy, requires little skill,  but significant repetition, and perhaps that is why so many athletes dismiss it and the value it holds as negligible.

It is often the simplest training which holds keys to peak performance, but too many athletes and coaches see simple as rudimentary, that which applies only to novice athletes.  Often smart training is mistaken for being ‘too simple’ and is overlooked, but consistent peak performers know the difference.

Performance Potential is Flexibility Dependent [2]

Dmitry Klokov, 2008 Beijing Olympic silver medalist and repeated medalist at World Championship events in the 105kg class.


Gif from Dmitry Klokov warmup video

What is most amazing is that the ankle plantar-flexion (the direction into which Dmitry is stretching his ankles in the image) is not a range of motion required for any lift; yet Dmitry’s ankle flexibility equals if not exceeds the ankle flexibility of many swimmers.  In fact, I have heard many cyclists argue that ‘stiff’ ankles are required, even optimal to maximize power transfer from the body into the pedals thus mechanics of the bike.  If anyone could argue ‘stiff’ ankles are optimal, lifters would be the ones as it wouldn’t be hard to agree that when lifting and holding hundreds of kilograms above the head, rigid ankles provide a stable base from which to generate power.  But rigid ankles don’t translate into optimal power transfer, and this is why an Olympic weightlifter spends time ensuring that his ankles are flexible in every direction.

If any athlete requires ankle plantar-flexion flexibility, it’s swimmers. In his book No Limits, Michael Phelps refers to the flexibility in not only his ankles but all his joints as one aspect of his physique which moved him towards success. Swimmers not only need flexibility in their ankles in order to position their feet for the kick, they need to be powerful in this position to generate propulsion with their kick. Top swimmers are capable of doing squats (unloaded) from a seated child’s pose (see images below):


Gif from The Race Club video titled Secret Tips: Propulsion

How many swimmers stretch their ankles, and then train during dryland to have this level of power from a kneeling position? This ability to generate power applies directly to a swimmers ability to generate propulsion with the freestyle, backstroke, and butterfly kicks.

For the breaststroke, the following dryland routine trains flexibility and power, and it trains the athlete to drive the whip kick posteriorly, not laterally, slicing through the water.


Gif from The Race Club video titled Secret Tips: Propulsion

Recently while watching the AT&T American Cup 2015 (US Gymnastics competition), top US gymnast Simone Biles during her floor routine started one of her tumbling runs from the kneeling position as shown by the male swimmer above, and just like him rose to her feet as if kicking the floor with a swimming dolphin or butterfly kick.

Weightlifters are training to develop such ankle flexibility, as are gymnasts yet neither of these athletes depend on this position nor power from this position to the extent that swimmers do. If weightlifters are training this flexibility, then all athletes – not just swimmers – need to seriously consider or reconsider their attitude, perspective, and the effort they make into training flexibility.

Any coach seeking peak performance from their athletes who doesn’t have flexibility as a primary aspect of their training routine is only fooling themselves that consistent peak performance is achievable.Dmitry_Klokov_200kg_Snatch

Gif from Dmitry Klokov performing 160kg, 190kg, and 200kg Snatches.

Stress Adaptation & Overtraining [2]

Adapted from “End that Addictive Relationship, Once and For All”
By: Holly Brown
Published at http://blogs.psychcentral.com/

Here’s a quick checklist to know if you’re addicted to exercise in an excessive toxic manner:

  • You have more bad moments than good but you can’t let go because you’re always chasing another fix of the good.
  • Your relationship with exercise depletes rather than energizes you.  It takes away from other areas in your life due to the pain from working out, and due to the time required to recover from injury, burn out, or max out.
  • You lose resources (i.e. emotional, health, function, time recovering) but no matter how great the cost, you continue with exercise which is beyond your ability.  You can’t seem to make rational calculations of what your body can, can’t, should and should not do.
  • When you try to leave, you can’t seem to follow through; you go through withdrawal symptoms.  You cave, and you relapse.
  • You pretend every time you have a setback that you will train differently.  You consistently ignore the fact that the past is the greatest predictor of the future.  You will be back there, in pain, again.   But you have selective memory (i.e. denial).
  • You’re lying to your friends and family about the way you treat yourself; you minimize the pain so they won’t turn against your excessive training habit, or urge you to do what you already know you should do, which is end the stress/arousal addiction.
  • OR you’ve alienated good people in your life who don’t want to stand by idly and watch you suffer, torture yourself, and damage your body, your health and well-being any longer.

Read the full story here.

You will find Holly’s original piece here.