“Activity and rest are two vital aspects of life. To find a balance in them is a skill in itself.
Wisdom is knowing when to have rest, when to have activity, and how much of each to have.
Finding them in each other – activity in rest and rest in activity – is the ultimate freedom.”
Sri Sri Ravi Shankar
Variety in the schedule (interval, hills, speed, long run and cross training) helps to strengthen the body, to recover from exercise and to prevent injuries.
People sleep significantly better and feel more alert during the day if they get at least 150 minutes of exercise a week, according to a 2011 study of Science Direct.
It’s essential not to overdo it though, so your performance can improve gradually and last longer!
Although it’s obviously better to recharge than to overload the mind and muscles, we tend to do the opposite.
Having a good sleep is what gives you energy, a bright new perspective and a clear head. It keeps you going.
For some it might be 9 hours and others feel good after just a short nap. It’s not so much about the quantity but about the quality of sleep.
“Running God” Yiannis Kouros, the number one Ultra Marathon runner, who has broken more than 160 world records, slept 30-60 minutes per day while studying, building a house, taking care of his family and running ultra races of 12 hours up to 10 days.
Dean Karnazes, an American Ultra Runner, could run a multi-day race without sleeping 3 nights on a row.
When Dean had a regular 9-5 job he slept ca. 8 hours a night. But for him the way to run more was to sleep less.
Now he sleeps 4 hours a night on average.
But, like with every routine, consistency is key. Whatever your sleep pattern is, wether you are an early bird or a night owl, we all need a good night sleep.
Once you find your sleep rhythm, you won’t have trouble to fall asleep or to wake up. At some point you won’t even need an alarm clock anymore:-)
How your daily choices can improve your nights
Taking a walk or run during the day not only improves your day, it also helps to sleep better.
Going to bed with a full stomach or after several coffees or alcoholic drinks can interrupt your sleeping pattern.
Smaller food portions, max 2 alcoholic beverages, and drinking water or herbal tea can make you sleep better.
And having your last drink an hour before you go to bed can save you from going to the bathroom at night.
Especially the day before a race pro-runners recommend to have your biggest meal for lunch and a small, light meal for dinner.
It will help you to wake up fresh and full of energy on race day.
Preparing for the night
It can help to switch off devices by the end of the day because the lighted screens of computers and tablets keep us awake.
But in case you need to do some computer work at night or read a Kindle on your tablet, the F.lux app makes the screen light softer so you’ll get more sleepy nevertheless.
It’s a good habit though to leave the television and devices outside of the bedroom, so you can fully focus on relaxing and mental preparation for race day.
Slowing down by reading a book, listening to music, relaxing exercises like yoga, taking a hot/cold shower, bath or sauna all contribute to a better night rest.
If something is bothering you it might look so much easier to solve after you “sleep on it.”
So why not “park” a problem until the next day and write it down if it keeps your mind busy at night.
There are many tools and apps to regulate the light and temperature, but to keep it simple closing or opening the window, curtains and more or less blankets will do fine.
Rest before race day
For runners one of the most essential parts of training for a race are the final weeks and days, when you slow down your training intensity and consume extra carbohydrates to perform your best on race day. This carb loading process, to maximize the storage of glycogen (or energy) in your muscles, in order to perform your best on race day, is called Tapering.
There are several Tapering strategies. Your body size, experience, preparation time, overall goals and yearly training schedule will influence which Taper strategy suits you best.
“However, if you’re not sleeping enough, your body won’t properly store the carbs you’re consuming (leading to less glycogen stores) and the benefits of carbo-loading may be lost. You might even hit the wall sooner than usual because your glycogen stores will be depleted too fast,” says Shelby F. Harris, director of a behavioral sleep medicine program by the Montefiore Medical Center in New York.
Sometimes the perspective of a race can be so exciting that you won’t get your regular amount of sleep in, especially when you got to travel to get there and can’t sleep in your own bed.
But once you’ll feel the energy and support of the audience along the route, you’ll forget your sleepless night straight away.