Well, I hope this edition of Marathon Mission finds that none of you had any encounters with the flu . . . , but odds aren’t in my favor on that one as it seems like half of the U.S. came down with some kind of flu. IF you did come down with one of the various flu bugs, you’ll have learned (or soon will) what it means to feel like you’re starting from scratch.
Here’s a quick tip for the flu folks: it’s OK to start out doing just a little! If you need to start out doing a half-mile instead of your normal 5-mile run . . . that’s FINE! You’ll find that your strength and endurance will return more quickly IF you ease into training rather than jump back into the middle of it. Okay, I did just say that, but good luck TRYING to go from the flu to pre-flu-form . . . my point is, you won’t be able to, but don’t let it discourage you. Just be thankful that you made it through the flu and then start out easy getting back into running. Don’t push yourself and you’ll find your endurance and strength returning relatively quickly. : )
Okay, so on to this month’s topic: SLEEP!
I’ve come to the conclusion that a LOT of the ills and injuries so many people, runners included, experience come from a lack of sleep. Yes, I also believe that many runners (and people 50 and older) need to eat more protein (to help build muscle), but I also am becoming more convinced that regular sleep of at least 7 to 8 hours a night is key to good overall health.
For runners, sleep is all about muscle repair and recovery. I can’t go into all the medical studies, but my understanding is that when you sleep your body goes into “hyper drive” to repair your mind and body. BUT if you are continuously shorting yourself on sleep, those repairs may not fully happen. There are even some studies that link some kinds of dementia to habitually shorting yourself on sleep.
So, what happens when muscles, let’s say, repeatedly only get repaired at an 80 percent or 90 percent clip, rather than full repair? Well, instead of strengthening maybe you’re simply causing yourself to plateau? And you know what MOST runners do when they plateau? They try to do some kind of new work out to push through that plateau. They get up earlier to add more miles, do more speed work, add in hills, etc. So, now, not only are we wearing our bodies out more trying to push through a plateau, we’re getting LESS sleep. Hmmm. Kind of makes sense why so many runners experience use injuries when really, a lot of us just need to get to bed earlier on a REGULAR basis.
Please note those last two words above: Regular Basis. A night or even a week of getting to bed early MAY feel great, but it’s not going to take care of months or years of what basically amounts to sleep deprivation. Much like running is a lifestyle change, adjusting to a new sleep schedule should be a lifestyle change as well IF you want to see improved performance in your running — and hopefully push back or eliminate some injuries (though injuries are often tied into doing too much too soon . . . and if you’re not getting the right amount of sleep, that “too much too soon” happens SOONER — given all other things are equal — than someone getting the right amount of sleep : )
My advice? If you’re plateaued, feeling fatigued all the time, or just want to recover from or prevent an injury, make sleep an important part of your training. Give it a three-month try. Yes, that’s an extended time, but I’m guessing if you would keep a journal over those three months, you’ll not only feel better physically, but emotionally as well — have a more positive outlook even. IF you decide to take this advice and commit to making sleep a training priority, it would be great to hear about YOUR experience (please keep a journal, if you can) — and maybe it could be something we can use in Marathon Mission to help others!
Well, consider this advice . . . maybe even “sleep on it.” : )
Have an awesome run today!