Back in May, I thought I’d give a sleep update for that quarter to see what kinds of trends would shake out when taking a longer view of my sleeping habits. I missed the opportunity to give an update for the April through June span, so instead I’ll skip it and give the update for July, August, and September.
In the first quarterly sleep review, I was showing some pretty terrible numbers, with an overall success rate of 25/120 days, or 20.8%. Let’s see where we are now.
Here, we see a much better hit-ratio. Between the months of July and September, I hit my target two out of three months, for 31 out of 92 days, or 33.7%, a more than 10% jump in sleep.
Some of my success in this quarter is because I’ve tried being more conscious of my sleeping habits, though I will admit that I still don’t do a good job of maintaining a night-time routine to get myself into bed at a decent time.
The sleep results for each of the days of the week are somewhat consistent from the last quarterly update, with the most sleep occurring Sundays, where I’m usually not up late and I can sleep in the next day. Thursday continues to be a bad day for sleep since I’m still working at the bar Wednesday night’s.
The biggest improvement that was unexpected was my Saturday sleeping. As I noted in the last quarterly update, Saturday’s typically suffer because I work at the bar, and so being up late usually means I won’t get a full 7-hours in. In this quarter, I have fixed that issue somewhat, though admittedly not intentionally. My best reason to account for this change is that I often take early cuts at the bar when we have lower patron turnout, so I’m able to go to sleep earlier than I otherwise would have.
A final caveat on my sleep results is that my July and August results are good because of the vacation I took from work. The two weeks off between July and August meant I was able to keep a regular sleeping schedule, go to the gym twice per week, and have time with my partner, all while still being able to get work done from my to-do list. That two-ish week period is a little bit of a deviation from the norm, which resulted in a higher sleep ratio for the month.
All in all, I’m happy with the results, and am looking forward to the next quarterly sleep review to close out 2017’s sleep tracking.
Despite the missing data in August’s check-in, I was able to meet my 10-night target for the month. This month I just barely missed my 10 nights target. I had hoped to get the last night on September 30th, but sadly I had stuff to do Saturday morning that got me up earlier than I would have liked.
One thing I noticed is how poorly I sleep when I have a head cold. This may be obvious to people, but it wasn’t until I saw it graphed out just how much of a toll it takes on sleep when your body is trying to recover. Not only that, but I saw the benefit of using cough medicine at night, where in the days before I took it, my sleep was disturbed fairly regularly, whereas after I started taking medicine, I was able to get longer periods of sleep in before I became restless.
Check out my stats from Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday (pre-cough medicine) versus Thursday night (post-cough medicine):
On Thursday, I felt more rested after taking cough medicine at night despite having less sleep overall. It just goes to show how important it is to maintain uninterrupted sleep cycles.
While on vacation, I had lots of free moments to address an issue I’ve discussed many times before – my poor track record with going to the gym to exercise. While on vacation, I set the goal to attend the gym twice per week for the two-weeks I was home. I didn’t set a specific time or day to go, only that I would make the effort. Using the excuse log idea, I noted that when I didn’t feel like lifting heavy weights, I would commit myself to going and riding the bike for an hour. As you can see below, I was successful in my goals.
I noted a few observations that seemed to help spur me on to success.
I always strove to exercise while my fiancee was away at work. That meant I would have more time with her when she was home since I had so much free time during the day to do anything else I wanted. With this in mind, I knew that the closer I got to 5pm, the more likely I was to miss the window for the day to go to the gym.
Going during the day time, when everyone else was at work, was an amazing breath of relief. While I may be passed the point of feeling super self-conscious about going to the gym, it was still refreshing to have a relatively empty gym to do whatever I wanted.
As noted above, my trips to the gym included both lifting weights and cardio-only sessions. As part of my commitment, I knew that if I didn’t want to go, then I had to commit to just “30-min on the bike,” which I could turn into a full hour after I was already at the gym and sweating.
Getting dressed in my gym clothes at home also made it easier to go. Maybe it’s because it cuts down on the overall time commitment, or because it primed me, or even because I always shower at home anyway (so why dirty street clothes?); whatever the reason, it helped.
I still couldn’t bring myself to go first thing in the morning. I considered trying this during my vacation to see if I could potentially carry it over to when I returned to work. This strategy would be the easiest to implement if I wanted to dedicate three days a week to the gym without sacrificing other obligations.
Likewise, I wanted to try swimming at an indoor pool once during my vacation as a form of exercise. I was not able to make this happen. I did, however, get time in the lake, so that should count for something.
I found the gym a good source of “therapy” when I was in a foul mood.
Overall, I’m happy with how things went and am looking to try and carry the 2-days/week practice into my normal routine.
Having rested up from my vacation, it’s time to do my sleep check-in for the month of July. During my last check-in, I set the goal of hitting my sleep target at least 10 times in the month.
Let’s see how I did:
July proved to be a good month for sleep! I hit my target 11 times out of 31 days, or 35%. This is the best I have achieved since I started tracking my sleep at the start of the year.
Having said that, I do want to provide some context that will dampen the accomplishment a bit. The blocks of sleep at the start and end of the month (6-days) were during vacation periods – the start of the month was the Canada Day long weekend, and the block of time at the end were when I took 2-weeks off from my jobs and went to the cottage with my fiancee. Because she took time off, we both were able to sleep in and get lots of rest.
This means that had I not had that time off from work, I would likely have only hit my target around 5-6 times, which goes against my stated aim last month of hitting my sleep goals by being more mindful and intentional with my bedtimes.
So, while I can celebrate this month of more concentrated rest, I have to keep in mind that my habits themselves have not changed around sleep.
Therefore, I will keep my target going, and I will aim to hit my goal another 10-times in August. This will be a better measure of whether I can keep the trend going strong.
Back in January, I bought a new pair of running shoes for the gym. I had owned my old ones for a *long* time – I remember using those shoes more than a decade ago when I was exercising before my trip to Kenya. Those shoes were… well beyond worn.
I elected to get some Converse shoes as I hear that they are good for things like deadlifts, where you want solid contact with the ground (some of the pros deadlift barefoot). Since I like deadlifts, I thought I’d listen to people who seem to know what they are doing, and so I bought new shoes. I remember the feeling I had when I exited the store. I immediately wanted to hit the gym and try them out. There is something about new clothes that gives you a bit of a motivational kick.
Fast-forward to the present, I’ve been struggling a bit with maintaining a consistent schedule with going to the gym. Last week, I was checking out some blog posts from a fitness YouTuber that I’ve recently started following – Jon Call, aka Jujimufu. Seriously, the guy is freaking inspiring to me; I love his attitude and personality on camera. I’m not ashamed to admit I also may have a bit of a man-crush on him.
Try training in new outfits. When you feel like a bad ass because you think you look cool, you perform better. Owning the idea that you look great motivates you. Beef up your training wardrobe and suddenly you’ll want to train sometimes exclusively as an excuse to wear cool training outfits. Cool outfits kill training boredom.
Crimson Zubaz pants + wrist bands + face paint = Just another Jujimufu outfit.
I remembered back to when I bought the shoes, and how jazzed I felt to hit the gym, so I took this advice and hit up a local sporting goods store. To aid with my training, I bought three Under Armour tee-shirts, a pair of shorts, and some wrist-bands for wiping brow sweat. I like the design of UA shirts, and I find their fabric blend helps keep me cool in the gym.
With my new shirt in hand, I drove straight from the store to the gym to try it out. As expected, I felt really good wearing the shirt and I had a good workout.
While I can’t use this strategy all the time to find motivation, I’ll have to keep it in mind that shaking up the wardrobe could be just the trick I need in the future.
For more suggestions on how to kill training boredom, I suggest reading the full article or searching out Jujimufu online.
At the close of my May sleep check-in, I indicated that if I didn’t improve my sleeping habits over June, (that is, to be more mindful of the process), that I would set targets in July. Let’s see how I fared.
On the surface, I would say that I’ve done better during June than I did in May. In May I only hit 4 nights of 7+ hours of sleep, and in June I hit my target 7 times. Superficially, I have succeeded.
However, I don’t consider this a success as I’m clearly not mindful of my habits. You can see this manifested in where I’m most commonly hitting my targets: Sundays. Four out of the seven instances where I slept 7 or more hours were on Sundays where I was allowed to sleep in, and I didn’t work at the bar the night before (where I would normally be awake until 3am or later). This is not the result of me being busy most of the week, but instead the result of me not being mindful of my night-time routines and not getting into bed until 11pm.
And so, as promised, in July I’m setting a target. I will be aiming for 10-nights of getting 7+ hours of sleep. It’s a little ambitious as I typically don’t do better than 7 nights per month, but I think it is a manageable target.
Happy Canada Day weekend for those who are observing it!
In preparation for the holiday, I’m writing this post a little early as I will be sans networked connection at the lake. As of writing, I don’t yet have all of my sleep data recorded for June, so the typical sleep update will be delayed one week.
Instead, I want to briefly give some further health and fitness thoughts that I’ve been mulling over recently, in no particular order.
1. “I’ve put on some weight…”
Exercise was a bigger part of my life last year, but I’ve recently recalled that my gym habit waned in the days before heading off to Scotland in July 2016. Prompted by the realization that July starts next week, I looked up my weight stats for this time last year. Ugly truth time!
Needless to say, that’s a little disappointing. Finding a system that I can stick to has been a challenge for a number of reasons that aren’t particularly compelling, and I’m disappointed in my progress so far.
2. Goal Setting with a Deadline
I realized that last Saturday was exactly 63 weeks away from our wedding day. I’m hoping to leverage the not so far off wedding date as a concrete goal in my mind to spur action. Every week that I do nothing in regards to exercise or fitness brings me one week closer to the wedding where I didn’t prepare. With lots of lead-in, I have plenty of time to exercise safely to look good for my future-wife.
3. Tracking Excuses
I found a nifty idea on Reddit that I’m implementing in my notebook called the Excuse Log. This will have the dual purpose of aiding purposeful reflection on why I don’t exercise when I plan to, and what I can do about it in the future. In my notebook, I’ve penned in the table below:
*What is the reason why I’m not going to the gym?
*Is this a legitimate reason? I.e. would a good friend or professional excuse my absence based on this reason?
*If the excuse is not legitimate, reframe the problem to better reflect reality for next time. If the excuse is legitimate, what solutions can you implement to help you in the future.
This will help me be more mindful of those times when I didn’t exercise as I planned because I let my baser monkey brain trick me (you’re too tired, YouTube is more pleasant, you ate too big of a lunch, etc.).
4. Enjoy What You Do
I stopped rowing, ultimately, because I don’t enjoy cardio exercises all that much. While it might be true that I like rowing over running, I truthfully don’t like rowing or running that much as compared to lifting weights, especially when it’s the only exercise I’m doing.
Going to the gym to lift weights comes with a whole host of mental barriers that I’ve thus far proven to be weak against. I give in to temptation when I’m tired, I don’t have the discipline yet to hit the gym in the morning, I’m still self-conscious around others, and I seem to have an aversion to sweating. Stacked together, I’ve got a lot of friction to fight against just to do the right thing.
A trick I’ve seen consistently in the exercise literature and the self-help sphere is to pick activities you like to do, because you’ll be more likely to stick to them. I genuinely enjoyed going to the gym when life was simpler a year ago. Now, having been away for so long, it’s hard for me to build up to the same level where I can coast on the routine. I need a catalyst to help push me forward. I need something I enjoy to be the keystone habit/activity that will force me to exercise. John Green talked about it recently after completing his first half-marathon on his 100 Days YouTube channel. In the video, he takes the advice that sticking to your fitness habits can be aided by signing up for competitions that you need to train for.
Recently, I participated in a crash course introduction to Brazilian Jiu Jitsu with some friends. To say that it kicked my ass is a bit of an understatement; I was a hot, sweaty mess afterwards. As of writing I still have bruises and broken blood vessels marking my upper arms and chest, and in the days afterwards I felt as though I had been run over by a mid-sized American pick-up truck.
And yet, I thoroughly enjoyed the experience. In the past, I had also participated in a similar session for Krav Maga, and while I enjoyed it, too, the BJJ session was a lot more fun for me. Despite what you may think about me moonlighting as a security guard, I’m not a big fan of striking combat. I prefer grappling and restraint over throwing punches, so BJJ spoke to me on some level.
I’ve since looked up the fees and schedule offered by the recreation centre and I’ve been pondering whether I would want to join in on some of the drop-in classes. To keep up and learn BJJ (or any martial art) would require me to improve my flexibility, mobility, and cardiovascular endurance; I’d also be more inclined to hit the weights to gain strength as well. I haven’t made any decisions or commitments yet, but it’s something that’s been on my mind.
Of course, this is all talk. My problem is that I don’t translate talk into action. All the best laid plans come unraveled when you can’t put the rubber to the pavement (worn cliched metaphors and all). Or, as Mike Tyson has quipped, everyone has a plan until they get punched in the face. In this case, lacking a solid fitness plan opens me up to the punches of day-to-day life, where every available excuse becomes a valid reason to not commit to exercise.
As I review this post, I realize the order I laid things out in creates a pretty good reflection of 1.) identifying the problem, 2.) setting a realistic timeline, 3.) anticipating roadblocks, and 4.) setting good plans of action.
I don’t know where this will go, but I’m curious to see what comes of it.