Runners, you know the routine: get up early to fit in your miles, do some quick stretches afterward, then hop in the shower and get on with the day.
You’re busy and have miles and miles to cover, so you often rise before dawn. Sometimes, though, it’s good to let the sun wake up first.
Not to say that working out first thing in the morning doesn’t have tremendous benefits, but so does some extra sleep. If you’re waking up around 5 a.m. every day, I bet there are nights when you’re skimping on sleep. That’s to be expected, of course, because you live a normal life where things — family, friends, work — get in the way.
But your body needs sleep to recover in the same way that it needs a nutritious diet, strength training, stretching and cross training, so it’s worth monitoring. I’ve read articles that recommended adhering to a sleep schedule in the same way that one adheres to a training plan, but it can be tough to be so vigilant. However, there are still small steps you can take.
- Listen to your body. Do you feel sluggish midday? Are you having trouble finishing a run because you’re so tired? Are you dying for a nap? If you answered yes to any of these questions, you’re probably lacking sufficient sleep. Take the same steps you would if injured: rest, focus on the problem, take steps to correct the problem.
- Give yourself an extra half-hour. You may think that it’s hard to get to bed any sooner than you currently do, but if it just means tucking yourself in 30 minutes earlier, it’s not so daunting. You’ll give yourself an extra three and a half hours of sleep a week if you bump up your bedtime by that small amount, and an extra 30 minutes a night may be all your body needs.
- Take the nap. It can be hard to take a midday nap without feeling guilty, but if you’re an athlete, midday naps may be necessary. If you have the time, take the nap!
- Hand over the reins. If you have kids to get to bed, let your spouse take on the later duties. If you don’t have a spouse to help, let your kids know that their bedtime is also moving up by a half hour. If you work late into the evening, see if you can swap responsibilities at work with someone else.
- Let people know. Chances are that if you’re a runner, you talk about running A LOT. So let people know that you need some extra sleep and why. Tell your family members to give you space as nighttime approaches and you begin to unwind; let your colleagues know that you have a cutoff time in the evenings. It’s okay to set some healthy boundaries, runner or not!
- Turn off the alarm one day a week. Most runners have a long run scheduled for the weekend, but a weekend has two days. Try turning off your alarm on the other weekend day, rising naturally instead. Your body then has the chance to rise when it’s rested not when it’s told to.
- Use your rest day as it’s intended. If you have a rest day during the week, sleep through your typical running time; don’t get up at the same time as you do on other mornings and try to get extra work done. If your rest day is on the weekend, do the above and shut off the alarm! If you really can’t shut off the alarm, at least push it back by 30 minutes to an hour.
- Adjust your sleep to your training schedule. Just as the miles and intensity increase when training for a race, so should the amount of sleep that you get. After a race, you’re still not done with sleep; more sleep equates to better recovery. However, during a period of maintenance or time off, you may require less sleep.
Try as you might to follow the above tips, there will be a morning when you wake up to run but want to cry because you’re so tired. When that happens, go back to sleep! If you’re truly exhausted, sleep will be much better for you than a run. If this happens on the morning of a critical long run, push your run to later in the day. However, don’t use tiredness as a continual excuse. Be honest with yourself: Are you exhausted or are you just being lazy? As a runner, you often have to push your body to uncomfortable limits, so don’t be afraid to do so.
Sleep needs vary based on the individual runner and the intensity of training. Find what works for you, and use the above tips to address problems when your sleep schedule isn’t working. Happy sleeping!
What does your sleep schedule look like when training? How do you get enough sleep? Any tips to add?