Manual for Speed Manual Volume Four: Chillering: the Art and Science of Napping & Reading was made in partnership with Team Garmin-Sharp's Alex Howes and Phil Gaimon. Phil physically wrote, with his brain-mind, a word-book and Alex is the leader and organizer of a World Famous International Book Club; in addition, both of them are gifted in the art of on-demand napping and sleeping. MFSM-004 was produced on location in and around the Timberline Condominium grounds (park benches, in the Fitness Club, in their hotel rooms, on the Team Bus, in the Sauna, on a Ski run, in a Porta Potty, etc.) in Snowmass Village the day before the start of the 2014 USA Pro Challenge. Irony-based Side Note: During the production of MFSM-004, Phil and Alex were reminded by their DS—we (Alex, Phil and Manual for Speed) were walking around the grounds looking for "chillering spots" when we ran into management on the way to the Team Bus Area—that they needed to be leisuring instead of engaged in whatever it is that we were engaged in, which was, ironically, the demonstration of leisuring.
MFSM-004 Part I: Reading
Mental Stimulation: Studies have shown that staying mentally stimulated can slow the progress of (or possibly even prevent) Alzheimer’s and Dementia, since keeping your brain active and engaged prevents it from losing power. Just like any other muscle in the body, the brain requires exercise to keep it strong and healthy, so the phrase “use it or lose it” is particularly apt when it comes to your mind. Doing puzzles and playing games such as chess have also been found to be helpful with cognitive stimulation.
Stress Reduction: No matter how much stress you have at work, in your personal relationships, or countless other issues faced in daily life, it all just slips away when you lose yourself in a great story. A well-written novel can transport you to other realms, while an engaging article will distract you and keep you in the present moment, letting tensions drain away and allowing you to relax.
Knowledge: Everything you read fills your head with new bits of information, and you never know when it might come in handy. The more knowledge you have, the better-equipped you are to tackle any challenge you’ll ever face.
Additionally, here’s a bit of food for thought: should you ever find yourself in dire circumstances, remember that although you might lose everything else—your job, your possessions, your money, even your health—knowledge can never be taken from you.
Vocabulary Expansion: This goes with the above topic: the more you read, the more words you gain exposure to, and they’ll inevitably make their way into your everyday vocabulary. Being articulate and well-spoken is of great help in any profession, and knowing that you can speak to higher-ups with self-confidence can be an enormous boost to your self-esteem. It could even aid in your career, as those who are well-read, well-spoken, and knowledgeable on a variety of topics tend to get promotions more quickly (and more often) than those with smaller vocabularies and lack of awareness of literature, scientific breakthroughs, and global events.
Reading books is also vital for learning new languages, as non-native speakers gain exposure to words used in context, which will ameliorate their own speaking and writing fluency.
Memory Improvement: When you read a book, you have to remember an assortment of characters, their backgrounds, ambitions, history, and nuances, as well as the various arcs and sub-plots that weave their way through every story. That’s a fair bit to remember, but brains are marvelous things and can remember these things with relative ease. Amazingly enough, every new memory you create forges new synapses (brain pathways)and strengthens existing ones, which assists in short-term memory recall as well as stabilizing moods. How cool is that?
Improved Focus and Concentration: In our internet-crazed world, attention is drawn in a million different directions at once as we multi-task through every day. In a single 5-minute span, the average person will divide their time between working on a task, checking email, chatting with a couple of people (via gchat, skype, etc.), keeping an eye on twitter, monitoring their smartphone, and interacting with co-workers. This type of ADD-like behaviour causes stress levels to rise, and lowers our productivity.
When you read a book, all of your attention is focused on the story—the rest of the world just falls away, and you can immerse yourself in every fine detail you’re absorbing. Try reading for 15-20 minutes before work (i.e. on your morning commute, if you take public transit), and you’ll be surprised at how much more focused you are once you get to the office.
Tranquility: In addition to the relaxation that accompanies reading a good book, it’s possible that the subject you read about can bring about immense inner peace and tranquility. Reading spiritual texts can lower blood pressure and bring about an immense sense of calm, while reading self-help books has been shown to help people suffering from certain mood disorders and mild mental illnesses.
Free Entertainment: Though many of us like to buy books so we can annotate them and dog-ear pages for future reference, they can be quite pricey. For low-budget entertainment, you can visit your local library and bask in the glory of the countless tomes available there for free. Libraries have books on every subject imaginable, and since they rotate their stock and constantly get new books, you’ll never run out of reading materials.
If you happen to live in an area that doesn’t have a local library, or if you’re mobility-impaired and can’t get to one easily, most libraries have their books available in PDF or ePub format so you can read them on your e-reader, iPad, or your computer screen. There are also many sources online where you can download free e-books, so go hunting for something new to read!
There’s a reading genre for every literate person on the planet, and whether your tastes lie in classical literature, poetry, fashion magazines, biographies, religious texts, young adult books, self-help guides, street lit, or romance novels, there’s something out there to capture your curiosity and imagination. Step away from your computer for a little while, crack open a book, and replenish your soul for a little while.
MFSM-004 Part II: Napping
Better Health: Getting a good night's sleep won't grant you immunity from disease. But study after study has found a link between insufficient sleep and some serious health problems, such as heart disease, heart attacks, diabetes, and obesity.
In most cases, the health risks from sleep loss only become serious after years. That might not always be true, however. One study simulated the effects of the disturbed sleep patterns of shift workers on 10 young healthy adults. After a mere four days, three of them had blood glucose levels that qualified as pre-diabetic.
Better Sex Life: According to a poll conducted by the National Sleep Foundation, up to 26% of people say that their sex lives tend to suffer because they're just too tired. There's evidence that in men, impaired sleep can be associated with lower testosterone levels—although the exact nature of the link isn't clear.
Of course, not getting enough sleep can affect your love life in less direct ways too. "If you're a 28-year-old who's so exhausted you're falling asleep during a date at the movies, that's not good," says Ronald Kramer, MD, a spokesperson for the American Academy of Sleep Medicine and a specialist at the Colorado Sleep Disorders Center in Englewood, Colo.
Less Pain: If you have chronic pain—or acute pain from a recent injury—getting enough sleep may actually make you hurt less. Many studies have shown a link between sleep loss and lower pain threshold. Unfortunately, being in pain can make it hard to sleep.
Researchers have found that getting good sleep can supplement medication for pain. If pain is keeping you up at night, there are also medications available that combine a pain reliever with a sleep aid.
Lower Risk of Injury: Sleeping enough might actually keep you safer. Sleep deprivation has been linked with many notorious disasters, like the destruction of the space shuttle Challenger and the grounding of the Exxon Valdez. The Institute of Medicine estimates that one out of five auto accidents in the U.S. results from drowsy driving—that's about 1 million crashes a year.
Of course, any kind of accident is more likely when you're exhausted, says Jodi A. Mindell, PhD, a professor of psychology at St. Joseph's University in Philadelphia and author of Sleep Deprived No More. "When you're overtired, you're more likely to trip, or fall off a ladder, or cut yourself while chopping vegetables," she says. "Household accidents like that can have serious consequences."
Better Mood: Getting enough sleep won't guarantee a sunny disposition. But you have probably noticed that when you're exhausted, you're more likely to be cranky. That's not all. "Not getting enough sleep affects your emotional regulation," says Mindell. "When you're overtired, you're more likely to snap at your boss, or burst into tears, or start laughing uncontrollably."
Better Weight Control: Getting enough sleep could help you maintain your weight—and conversely, sleep loss goes along with an increased risk of weight gain. Why? Part of the problem is behavioral. If you're overtired, you might be less likely to have the energy to go for that jog or cook a healthy dinner after work.
The other part is physiological. The hormone leptin plays a key role in making you feel full. When you don't get enough sleep, leptin levels drop. Result: people who are tired are just plain hungrier—and they seem to crave high-fat and high-calorie foods specifically.
Clearer Thinking: Have you ever woken up after a bad night's sleep, feeling fuzzy and easily confused, like your brain can't get out of first gear?
"Sleep loss affects how you think," Mindell tells WebMD. "It impairs your cognition, your attention, and your decision-making." Studies have found that people who are sleep-deprived are substantially worse at solving logic or math problems than when they're well-rested. "They're also more likely to make odd mistakes, like leaving their keys in the fridge by accident," she tells WebMD.
Better Memory: Feeling forgetful? Sleep loss could be to blame. Studies have shown that while we sleep, our brains process and consolidate our memories from the day. If you don't get enough sleep, it seems like those memories might not get stored correctly—and can be lost.
What's more, some research suggests that sleep decreases the chances of developing false memories. In several experiments, people were asked to look over a series of words. Later they were tested on what they remembered. People who didn't sleep in between were much more likely to "remember" a word that they hadn't actually seen before.
Stronger Immunity: Could getting enough sleep prevent the common cold? One preliminary study put the idea to the test. Researchers tracked over 150 people and monitored their sleep habits for two weeks. Then they exposed them to a cold virus.
People who got seven hours of sleep a night or less were almost three times as likely to get sick as the people who got at least eight hours of sleep a night. More research is needed to establish a real link; this study was small and other factors may have influenced the results. Still, you can’t go wrong getting eight hours of sleep when possible.