Sleep Matters - Focus, Recovery and Mental Alertness
by Katie Jodscheidt, NASM-CPT
|Loose focus on a section like this and you might get a chance to see if that soil actually taste like chocolate.|
When you combine passion, competition and performance with a love for an extreme sport you get a motocross athlete. So much preparation is involved to be able to compete in such a highly competitive sport. Day in and day out, these athletes are pushing the limits both on and off the track to ensure they are ready to perform when the gate drops. In order to achieve a high level of performance, riders must follow intense training regimens to prepare physically, mentally and emotionally. From specialized meal plans to intense resistance training, cardiovascular exercises and on track performance, there is an incredible physical demand placed on a rider.
The Missing Link
So you have your training regimen down and bike dialed. What's missing on the road to improved performance? The essential element is sleep. Often overlooked, rest and recovery are critical in reaching peak performance. When motocross is your life and your desire to “make it” becomes the ultimate focus, it is easy to forget that overtraining can be your own worst enemy. If you love what you do, it is hard to shut it off. Do you ever feel guilty about taking a rest day? Well you're not alone. However, like it or not, if you want to maximize your training and performance, your body needs to rest in order to repair and rebuild itself.
Motocross places high levels of stress on the body so although you might think out training your competition will help you win the race, over-training can hurt you in the long run if you are not getting enough sleep. When you don't give your muscles time to repair properly, you run the risk of injury because you keep breaking them down day after day. Muscles will only strengthen if you give them time to rebuild, making rest imperative.
Lack of Sleep: The Effects
Can occasional lack of sleep effect your performance? Lets face it, there are going to be days once in a while where you don’t get enough rest or didn’t give your body enough time to recover. As long as these days are few and far between, you will be okay. However, consistently depriving yourself of sleep can not only be harmful to your health but also damaging to your performance.
So why else is sleep important? Lets consider psychological and physiological effects of sleep deprivation. Studies have shown that depriving yourself of sleep can have a negative effect on growth, stress and energy levels. Recovery and growth occur during the sleep state when the body releases the necessary growth hormones to stimulate muscle repair and build strength following muscle breakdown during training and races. Without the release of this hormone, the body runs the risk of not repairing itself, which leaves the body susceptible to injury.
In addition, sleep deprivation has been linked to increased levels of the stress hormone cortisol, which can negatively affect muscle growth and tissue repair while weakening the immune system.
Sleep and Energy
What about energy? During rigorous training and competition, the body is depleted of essential fluids and muscle glycogen, which is necessary to properly fuel the body to avoid early exhaustion. Ever feel like you are running on “E”, there is a good chance this is because your body has been broken down time and time again without enough time to recover and replenish the essential levels of fluids and energy storage. Of course, early exhaustion can also occur when athletes are not food fueling properly.
So what is the right amount of sleep for a motocross rider? Researchers say athletes should get 8-10 hours of sleep each night, which is about an hour to two more than the average person. While you may be able to put a price on your bike, gear, traveling and training, one thing you cannot put a price on is the value of sleep.
If you are looking to improve your overall performance, start by improving your sleep habits.
About the Author: Katie Jodscheidt is the founder of Innerzyme and a Certified Personal Trainer through the National Academy of Sports Medicine. She is a health and fitness enthusiast with a passion for helping athletes achieve their performance goals and improve their overall health through proper food intake, exercise and nutritional supplementation. Innerzyme currently sponsors over 350 motocross riders ranging from age 4 to 56 as well as Team BWR Brian White Racing. Visit www.innerzyme.com for more information.
That's it for now, until next time, good luck with your training and remember, if you have a question, log on to the Virtual Trainer Expert Forum and have your question answered by a panel of experts. In addition, be sure and check out the Racer X Virtual Trainer archive section. Your complete one-stop information zone for motocross fitness.