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Age and sleep

This week has been extremely busy, and although I am used to working long hours, I admit to feeling a little weary. I get up at about 6 every day, and I either train early or start work right away, and I pretty much keep at it til about 7pm. So 12 to 13 hours of work, only stopping to eat and exercise, then I spend an hour or so between 7 and 8:30 eating and chatting with my kids and putting them to bed, then I work again from 8:30 until about 11 most nights. I get to bed around 11:30, maybe read a book (about nutrition or exercise or disease prevention, of course) for a few minutes, and then sleep around midnight. No two days are the same, but that’s a typical average kind of day.

Olympics in London

The Olympics has really gotten me fired up, I am enjoying watching bits when I can, but I have not seen anything like as much as I would have hoped. The last few evenings I have been trying to finish work by 10pm and then spend an hour catching up on the highlights of each day.

I love the gymnastics, the cycling, the athletics, the swimming, it’s all great. I look at the bodies of those male gymnasts and envy their physical strength and build. I have hung a set of gymnastic rings in my garage, but to be honest my abilities are laughable! I’ve been getting on my own back about this all week, cursing myself for being weak and having skinny arms, then I have to remember, that compared to these athletes, I am an old man!!

I am 42 years of age, these guys on TV are aged between 15 and 20. At 21, they are getting too old for Olympic level competition. And I realise that in my forties, I need way more sleep than I have been getting, I need to train far more carefully, my joints can’t take the pounding at 40 that they could at 20 and I am far more likely to sustain injuries.

To sleep, or not to sleep?

This has all been whirling around in my head all week, and I remember Arnold Schwarzenegger saying that if anyone takes more than 6 hours sleep per night, they need to learn to sleep faster. He laughs and says sleep is a waste of time, and I have said that myself for years, but I am also starting to learn that I can’t have it all.

If my goals are to live to a ripe old age, over 100, and to stay healthy til that age, and to stay fit and active in my old age, then I really must look after my body more now, and that means not pushing it so hard. A young man or woman can push their body hard at 15, 20, 25, but it’s a whole different story at 30, 35, 40, 45 and upwards. Of course, there are plenty of awesome older triathletes, distance runners, weight lifters and so on, but these are often (not always) athletes who have trained their whole lives.

I didn’t, I spent my youth over weight watching TV. I was fat for 20 years. I smoked for 20 years. Now I pay the price, and it takes me time to train my body to do new things. It takes time and patience to get stronger, leaner, build muscle and burn fat.

Over-use injuries

Now, after 3 years of almost back-to-back sports injuries, muscles, bones and joints, I am starting to realise the wisdom in the things my osteopath tells me, about treating my body with less aggression and more respect. The surgeon who recently operated on my knee, when I asked if I could carry on running marathons after surgery, smiled at me and said “It depends how long you want to wait before asking me for a new knee.”

I need to accept that at 42, without a lifetime of clean living and hard training behind me, and with a demanding career and family life, building a lean, strong, hard muscular physique is a serious proposition that will require immense dedication to training and strict diet, and more than 5 to 6 hours per night sleep!

I am off on holiday tomorrow with my family, and while I will be working a little while away, I shall endeavour to catch up on sleep and think about trying to get more sleep all year round, going forward.

Our muscles break down when we use them (exercise), then they repair (and grow stronger and bigger) while we rest them - asleep. Now I am in my forties, I will only build muscle and achieve the strong, lean physique I want, if I get more rest, more sleep, and plenty of lean protein.

Now, time to log off and go watch the Olympic highlights from today. Not sure how much I’ll blog over the next week, while I’m away, but I’ll try my best to fit it in…if I’m not sleeping!

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