Sleep & Peformance

Gone are the days we jolt out of bed to hastily start our day.  The youthful days of yesteryear were just a moment ago, and we now envy our youth and their ability to speed through the house upon waking up prior to school.  Our age and memories have been replaced by a shuffling warm-up just to make it out of the bedroom, with fleeting thoughts of “this can’t possibly be how I’m going to live the rest of my life, is it?”

These are the trying times of runners as we age.  A colleague once said to me, “You can run into your 40’s, but you can’t run out!”  Gulp!

There certainly are remedies that can offset the post-exercise soreness related to running.  Those aching Achilles, the tight glutes, can be alleviated through the same energy and discipline that it takes to actually head out for the run itself.  In fact, at the moment, I, Coach Dave, am enrolled in a 7-week stretching class at Boomer Fitness, which has provided the necessary relief as I head into the Winter Cave of training (see the September newsletter).  As therapeutic as the class is, it will only serve its purpose if I cultivate the necessary self-discipline of post-run stretching on a consistent basis - a heavy task in itself.  That, as well as sufficient hydration and proper nutrition.  In addition to stretching, hydration, and healthy foods, the main variable that I find equally as important is sleep.

There are few things in ones youth that lay the foundation for discipline within adulthood. Spiritual health, healthy eating patterns, and sleep are likely at the top of any list when it comes to proper long-term Physical Health and Wellness - and healing, too! A study, albeit small, produced by the ScienceDaily titled “Sleep Extension Improves Athletic Performance and Mood” noted improvements in power output and faster speeds when performing drills for those who extended their sleep to 10 hours each night . The study also reports a greater overall mood, which if you have a teenager in the house, this might resonate a bit more.

Another study, Sleepy Runners: Measuring Sleep, Performance, and Injuries Among Runners from Anderson University, found an association between “poor sleep quality and injury among consistency training recreational runners.”

Teaching in the field of health and having may online discussions in Health classes report on the topic of sleep, I am left believing without a doubt that sleep has a direct impact on recovery and performance. A consistent bedtime routine prepares the mind and body that it is time to rest. A restful 8-10 hours of sleep, particularly in a dark and cool room, with your phone in another room, heals the microtrauma created by the previous days running load, ultimately preparing you for the next day ahead.

In summary, having a consistent bedtime ritual, along with consistency leading up to that ritual, helps prime the body for optimal sleep. It is even more important for young student-athletes, who expend 15-20% of their daily caloric needs merely learning and processing information, to sleep beyond the general 8-hour suggestion, perhaps up to 10-hours per night for optimal recovery and rejuvenation.

Happy sleeping!