We are still coping with the consequences of travel. The weekly weighs are on Friday — and last week we were away, so we can’t report on that. What I can say safely is that I got a virus, ended up in bed for half a day and took the next day off, and now Kea has the same thing and sleep deprivation because when I’m stuffy I’m … noisy.
I also had a birthday. Getting to the end of this decade of life, and this is one reason I read Mark Sisson as much as I do. He’s still going at it in his sixties. Read the whole article, but here is the keeper.
Don’t sign up for the 5 A.M. CrossFit class (unless—big maybe—you’re a natural early riser anyway).
Don’t relax with late night T.V. after a long day.
This isn’t easy. It’s not. It’s harder for people coming up now than it was for me. I didn’t have digital devices vying for my every waking moment or corporations whose expressly stated purpose was to compete with your sleep. That sucks, but it’s also reality, so you have to make it a huge priority—the biggest in your life.
The older you get, the more precious sleep gets. Your cognitive function, your memory, your physical preparedness, your metabolic health, your mental state, your emotional resiliency—everything depends on you getting a good night’s sleep. When you’re young, you believe you can skip sleep and feel okay. Don’t believe it. The damage is accumulating.
Mark Sisson, Mark’s Daily Apple
I am not, repeat not, a morning person. There is cold brew coffee made most mornings for a reason. Kea is more balanced than I am, but most days we are tired at about 9 PM and go to bed, waking about 6 AM. I have to travel most weeks for work. We load this to the beginning of the week. To allow for sleep I’ve done the following.
- The beginning of the day is analog. Yes, I use an electronic alarm (cellphone). Yes, it is beside the bed because if I am on call or something happens to the family the phone will go. But I don’t do bible readings in the morning online or check email. Our quiet time is using prayerbooks and a bible. Printed, not screens. We all have too much screen time. I leave mine for later in the day
- Prayer matters. But, you say, this is a fitness bit — and yes, it is. However, go and look at the secular data on meditation and mindfulness and you will see benefits. Prayer has more.
- If I’m unwell, I rest. The walk can and will be postponed. If I have to bail out, I do so. One of the reasons many people are sick at present is that we are having a stormy and cold spring — and we are all overworked, stressed, and tired. I work with such. I’m exposed to their bugs, and no one is that immune.
- I minimize TV, and social media. I don’t binge watch TV. I don’t get up for the rugby.
- Although I do move and stretch and do bodyweight exercises during the morning depending on energy, I schedule walks at lunchtime and anything hard in the evening. I want to be mobile. Running and the gym at the beginning of the day equals injury
Eating the bulk of our calories in the morning helps here — we can use dinner time to walk or do things together.
Being fit matters. Eating well matters — It now takes me two or three days to get back to peak writing after airport food (or worse, airline food). Mark linked to this, but it does make sense.
Grandmasters in competition are subjected to a constant torrent of mental stress. That stress, in turn, causes their heart rates to increase, which, in turn, forces their bodies to produce more energy to, in turn, produce more oxygen. It is, according to Marcus Raichle, a neurologist at Washington University in St. Louis, and Philip Cryer, a metabolism expert at the school, a vicious, destructive cycle.
Meanwhile, players also eat less during tournaments, simply because they don’t have the time or the appetite. “The simple explanation is when they’re thinking about chess, they’re not thinking about food,” says Ewan C. McNay, assistant professor of psychology in the behavioral neuroscience program at the University of Albany.
Stress also leads to altered — and disturbed — sleep patterns, which in turn cause more fatigue — and can lead to more weight loss. A brain operating on less sleep, even by just one hour, Kasimdzhanov notes, requires more energy to stay awake during the chess game. Some grandmasters report dreaming about chess, agonizing over what they could have done differently for hours in their sleep, and waking up exhausted.
To combat it all, today’s players have begun to incorporate strict food and fitness regimens to increase oxygen supply to the brain during tournaments, prevent sugar-related crashes and sustain their energy. In the 1980s and ’90s, smoking, drinking and late-night parties were common on the chess circuit — that’s right, chess had a “Boogie Nights” phase — but that scene has all but disappeared.
“Physical fitness and brain performance are tied together, and it shouldn’t be a surprise that grandmasters are out there trying to look like soccer players,” Ashley says.
According to Ashley, India’s first grandmaster, Viswanathan Anand, does two hours of cardio each night to tire himself out so he doesn’t dream about chess; Kasimdzhanov drinks tea only during tournaments and plays tennis and basketball every day. Chirila does at least an hour of cardio and an hour of weights to build muscle mass before tournaments.
What I noticed when I began to get fit again is that I could concentrate better. Here ketosis — being in a fasted state — helps. And keeping carbs low. Again, read the whole thing.
Thanks to the work of people like William Banting, a popular English undertaker who found a dietary solution for his own obesity, the general consensus during this time for someone who was overweight was to reduce his or her sugar intake. It was also recommended to decrease the intake of starches—potatoes, and bread—and focus more on meat, butter, cream, and vegetables. People employed both personal experimentation, like Banting, and experimentation in clinical settings and found that the low-carb, no-sugar approach did indeed work. All of this was conventional wisdom and noncontroversial. It wasn’t until the 1950s that people started to shift away from these recommendations, which were actually on the right track.
Next week we will have been in one place for a week (God be praised) and back into routines. Will update progress then.