For many years I have been seeking to improve my performance and overall health through maximizing my nutrition. I have also been very regular with active recovery techniques like self massage with a range of tools. I learn things, I test them, I retest them, I stick with what works and I try to evolve. But recently I have placed a serious focus on getting more sleep as part of my recovery protocol.
Seems simple right? We all know that sleep is important and getting more of it will make us feel better, but most people only pay lip service to it. And often it is not that people don’t want to get more sleep, it is just that most of us have legitimate things that can rob us of our sleep hours. Work, family, and stress are perhaps the three most common things that will have a negative affect on your sleep, and those 3 things are unavoidable for most people.
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This is where sitting down and giving yourself a reality check is important. For me it was a matter of realizing that training for 3 or 4 Ironman distance races per season at this point in my career is not realistic if I want to maximize my training, balance my family life and get proper sleep. So right now I am focusing on 1/2 Iron races (Challenge Rancho Cordova next up) for the fall and therefore I am not getting up at 5:00am to crank out 4 or 5 hour bike rides or 4 or 5km swims to make sure I get the miles in around my work and family commitments.
No, right now I am focusing on proper volume with a heavy dose of race specific intensities in training AND getting at least 7.5 hours of sleep a night, and most nights I am averaging more like 8.5. Yep, this means I am going to bed about 9:00pm most nights. But this may be easier for me than most people because we don’t have cable in our house and I am not staying up till 10:30 or 11:00 to watch the latest episode of Dancing with the Bachelorette or whatever else is serving as the tastiest eye candy lately.
ARE YOU ACTUALLY FEELING RESTED?
All signs are indicating that I am recovering extremely well from my hard days and the only thing I have changed in my recovery protocol is getting more sleep. As I was driving my son to Preschool (Nightingale) today I had to laugh as my eyes felt like they were pinned wide open and I was just buzzing in anticipation of my (race specific) workout that was to start when I got back home.
And remember our body repairs itself when we are asleep, and the deeper we are sleeper the more growth hormone is released.
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1) Commit to going to bed earlier.
2) Communicate your plans to your partner, house mates, family, coach, friends.
3) Finish dinner 2-3 hours before bed and ensure you get adequate protein and fats at dinner. But remember if you are an evening workout person then make sure you always get substantial carbohydrates in your post workout meal (macronutrient ratios will depend on the duration and intensity of the workout of course).
4) Don’t watch TV or any other form of blue light 60-90min before you go do bed (Sound a bit unrealistic or like to much of a change? Well, head out and get a good book. Right now I am reading Once A Runner).
5) Enjoy some time with your family, partner or friends before you go to bed.
6) After your final preparations for bed open up your book and read for as long as you want (this can sometimes end with you falling asleep with the book on your chest). Pick a book that doesn’t get you thinking too much (don’t re-read Joe Friels Triathlete Training Bible to adjust your next days swim workout) pick something like a biography or some other type of book that doesn’t get your brain going.
7) Make your room as dark as possible.
Most people have already heard that most of the just-mentioned things will help you get better sleep, but you need to create a routine that works for you. Because, as with most things, just adding one element will not yield the end result you want.
Endurance sports and maintaining overall good health can sometimes seem complicated, but I assure you quality sleep will make everything easier.