PK vs. Shift Work

It has been a while since my first installment of "PK vs." and this topic is one that I am becoming more and more knowledgeable about.

Since i started working in the fitness industry, many clients and new friends have worked in jobs or have careers which involve shift work. For those not in the know, shift work is basically working on a rotating roster which includes night shifts. This is not the desirable 9-5 which most try to attain to working (better suits some families etc.). Primarily you will see hospital, law enforcement, factory, and emergency services working these sort of hours.

Shift work is extremely taxing on the workers health, as the body is not meant to function at a high level after the sun goes down. Our hormones are sent into chaos when we do this sort of work, which can have a detrimental effect on the body and mind. I have worked with many shift workers over the years and I have taken the best ideas from all my clients and friends to compose this list of hints and tips to get through shift work without destroying your health and gains you may have made. Please leave your comments or any questions at the bottom of the post, I really do appreciate your feedback....

Here are my Top 5 ways to Better Survive Shift Work:

As I stated in my first PK vs. Injuries article, a real key to staying on top of your health if you are a shift worker is to maintain a specific mobility or stretching program around your shifts. This isn't as much for keeping the body flexible, but rather to utilise it as an ENERGISER. This is an idea which I first read about in Paul Chek's "Eat, Move and Be Healthy". Our bodies, especially during hormonal chaos and shift work trends (junk food and minimal exercise), become toxic vessels as a response to do doing something the body hasn't evolved to do. So doing  a mobility program can help to boost circulation, realign the body and flush toxins out just to name a few. Definitely worth doing five minutes a day especially if your starting work at 9:30 at night.

2.   20-30 Minute Training Sessions at Home.
Most shift workers are pressed for time, somewhat drained-tired and not always keen to stay on top of their fitness (this is a generalisation, just going off what I have been told). So going to the gym is not always achievable or desirable. How can we fix this problem? TRAIN AT HOME. A common misconception is for the best training practices, people have to sweat and burn for at least an hour each session. MYTH! Some of the best training sessions can run for 20-30mins, and when you are shift working this may be all the time that you have to blow on training. You don't need equipment either, one former client used to set the clock for 20mins and perform a circuit of push ups, squats, swings, and running. It used to leave them in an exhausted heap on the ground drenched in sweat, all because they took less recovery, increased intensity and set a deadline to get as much energy burned as possible.

3.   Take Your Own Food to Work.
Mums and Dads were onto something when they started sending food to school with their children. This wasn't because they thought it would be a nice thing to do for their kids, it was a necessity so that kids received adequate and healthy foods to eat so they can learn. This isn't different for us as adults either, the only problem is we have money in our pockets so we can buy our own foods which aren't always the best choices. Bringing in your own packed 'breakfast-lunch-dinner' to work is a great way to keep control of your diet and calorie intake. I am very aware that calorie dense-high energy foods are required during night shift especially at 4am. But instead of eating a mars bar or drinking coke, substitute with a homemade energy slice or smoothie which has the same effect, same calories, same sugar hit but isn't processed rubbish. Consider it...

4.   Chunking-Greasing The Groove.
This idea has been so much popularised of late, that it has almost been forgotten about. Originally published by Pavel, this is a wonderful system that I and many of my trainees have utilised with great results over the years.The basic idea behind it is to do mini efforts of exercises regularly throughout the day. This can be performed with almost any exercise and it is done to submaximal effort so as not to burn you out. I have two great examples that I have come across which involves this groovy training system:
  1. I had a mate/client who could not perform a proper chin up (it was a grissly, awkward 1/2 effort). His parents had a chin up bar over the top of the outside stairwell leading into their house, so I challenged JD to do one smooth easy going chin up variation every time he walked under the bar. After a month of practicing twice per day (one before school and one when he got home after), he came back to me and we retested and he was able to do two extremely smooth and picture perfect chin ups. Not a huge gain but for him it was a massive result. 
  2. A shift worker used to GTG while he was at work and waiting at the station for a call out. On the hour he would do one max set of push ups and a max time wall sit/hold. 'G' got massive gains from this little effort each hour and did not require any gear. Just his bodyweight and a wall.

5.   Meditation.
I have been reading "Becoming Enlightened" by the Dalai Lama, as well as info products by Zach Even-Esh and John Harricharan. The talk about the benefits of meditation. I have been practising meditation on and off for a few years now. This was spurred on by a bout of burn out from a hectic business schedule, crazy relationship break up and a dark state of mind. I turned to mediation after hearing about the benefits of it. I found it great in refocussing my mind, relaxing my body and taming the mental noise that plagued my mind. At times a 15 minute mediation helped  me so much it would feel like a just had a great sleep.

Now lets clear this up right now, I do not cross my legs and chant a mantra, it's not my thing at all and it is a common misconception about mediation. I sit in a quiet place, sometimes with instrumental music (holosync is a great resource), and I just listen to the environment also performing a six count breath in-hold-breath out-hold cycle and focus on one or both of these. Pretty simple system but challenging for many. I also use a walk or a surf as meditation.

Implement one of these top 5 into your life right now, don't wait. Take action and pack your lunch, spend five minutes mobilising the body, train short-fast-loud, take a few minutes to meditate etc.

Thanks for reading, if you like this article please share it to friends and family, help spread the word.