Move More to Sleep Better

I’m a very slow adopter of technology, interesting for someone who majored in Information Systems in college.  I guess sometimes I’m just stuck in my ways.  But recently I have begun to listen to more podcasts, under the constant pressure of friends asking “have you listened to this one yet?”  No!  I’ve never even heard of that guy!  But pretty much everyone has a podcast now (should I have one?), and I do like understanding how people I look up to in the fitness, mental toughness, or business world think.

Recently Jason McCarthy, founder of GORUCK, started a podcast called Glorious Professionals, a nod to the US Special Forces start as “glorious amateurs” and their current moniker, the “quiet professionals”.  His latest guest was none other than the Supple Leopard himself, Dr. Kelly Starrett.  Kelly is the godfather of “mobility” within the CrossFit community, as he is a practicing physical therapist as well as owner of CrossFit San Francisco.

I encourage you all to listen to the entire episode (there I go — “have you listened to this one yet???”), but in case your lack of commute-to-work time is knocking out your podcasting capacity, I wanted to drop a knowledge bomb that I got from this episode.

According to Dr. Starrett, humans are evolutionarily designed to do just a few things.  Sit on the ground (not chairs), walk with heavy things, and maybe throw things.  We have the capacity to walk (or run) long distances, and if we don’t do that, or especially if we don’t move very much at all during the day, it throws our basic physiology out of wack.  And that might affect your sleep!  Just going to a CrossFit class and moving with intensity for 30-45 minutes is not going to cut it.  That goal that many people have floated around of getting 10,000 steps per day is a great one, because in addition to keeping your metabolism fired up, getting that amount of movement in per day creates what Kelly called “sleep pressure”.  At the end of a really active day, you want to go to sleep!
Think about what happens on the opposite side of the spectrum — you have a standard weekday, especially in the time of COVID, where you don’t leave the house.  Again, maybe you go to the store or you get up and do a workout, but the rest of the day, little to no movement.  At the end of the day, you’re not tired and can’t fall asleep so you park in front of the TV until midnight, maybe self-medicate with alcohol to reduce your stress.  When you struggle out of bed in the morning and have to launch yourself toward the coffee pot, the cycle continues.  What we’re doing is relying on chemicals to put ourselves to (bad) sleep, and then chemicals again to wake up and make it through our day.  All the while, we kind of feel like crap, have little energy, feel sore, get sick.

I have recently been having a hard time sleeping, and have chalked it up to stress, getting older, or the inevitable scapegoat, COVID!  I’ve never been infected with the microscopic monster, but the coronavirus is preventing me from sleeping?  No, it’s because other than pacing around the gym for a few hours each day, the rest of the day I’m not very active and I haven’t created the need, the “pressure” for my body to want to sleep when it’s time to get some Z’s!

Movement and sleep are such critical parts of our human lives, and in general we’re screwing both of them up.  The good news is that they are very closely linked!  Let’s commit to moving more, and sleeping better!

To your health,