Stop looking for tips/tricks/hacks to help you shave a few seconds or minutes off of your PR when you are ignoring the single biggest thing that you can do to improve your performance and maximize the results of the work you’re putting in.
- Stop obsessing over how many ounces your shoes weigh.
- Stop believing that compression socks help you avoid fatigue and/or improve performance.
- Stop looking for a gel to give you that extra shot of energy at the right time to help you finish strong.
If you want to maximize the impact of your training and reach your goals quicker, none of the things listed above matter.
If you want to get the most out of your training, the thing you really need to do is start getting enough sleep.
Why Getting Enough Sleep Matters
While we are sleeping, our body systems are working overtime.
And one of the biggest tasks that our bodies undertake while we are sleeping is tissue repair.
When we are running, and especially during hard workouts, our muscles/ligaments/bones are damaged due to our running.
And that repair process is how our bodies adapt to become stronger, faster, and more resistant to injuries.
So by getting enough sleep, not only do you feel rested in the morning but you are literally stronger than you were when you went to bed the night before.
If you’re not getting enough sleep most night, your body is going to break down and your odds of becoming injured go up dramatically.
4 Suggestions to Help You Get Enough Sleep (& Better Sleep) on a Regular Basis
- Go to Bed: Ok, so this one is kind of a no-brainer, but if you know you need to get up at 5 for your run, staying up until 12 to watch Fallon probably isn’t very wise. I promise, there’s nothing wrong with going to bed between 9 and 9:30. And if you really like Fallon that much, catch the highlights on YouTube the next day. They’ll still be funny, guaranteed.
- Cut the Caffeine: I feel like such a hypocrite telling you to drink less coffee, but the truth is that caffeine later in the day can definitely impact your ability to fall asleep. Additionally, having caffeine in your system while you’re trying to sleep can decrease the quality of your sleep as well. I’ve found that if I stop with the coffee around 2 o’clock or so, I tend to get better sleep that night.
- Limit Alcohol Consumption: I don’t know about you, but I’ve often felt that having a drink before bed helps me to relax and fall asleep a little easier. While that may be true, it turns out that the way our bodies process alcohol prevents us for getting as restful and restorative sleep as we would get without the night cap. So if you’re already cutting it close in terms of quantity of sleep, don’t sacrifice the quality by imbibing as well.
- Turn Away from the Screens: The bright lights of our screens, from phones to TVs, can through off our body’s natural timer and make it harder for us to fall asleep. This is an area that has been studied a lot in the past 10-15 years, as more and more electronics are making their way into our lives. In a perfect world, we’d all stop using our screens at least an hour before we head to bed. But if that’s not an option for you, try adjusting the brightness of your screen. If you’re using an iPhone, there’s a new setting when you swipe up from the lock screen, or the home screen, that allows you to have the screen dim automatically at certain times of day. And if you’re an Androider, there are apps available that will do the same thing. Get one and start using it!
Another tool that I use to help improve the quality of my sleep is an app called Sleep Cycle.
This app is available for iOS and Android, and actually measures both the quality and quantity of your sleep each night. It also has a really cool alarm clock feature to help you wake up at the optimal time for you most mornings.
I think it costs $2, but it’s one of the few apps I’ve ever paid for that I feel is very well worth the cost. So check it out if you haven’t already.
When it comes to sleep, we as runners need to make sure we are getting quality and quantity on a daily basis.
Start taking a few steps today to ensure you’re not only getting enough sleep every night, but also to get the maximum benefit from every minute you spend in bed.