Steamtown Marathon Diary: The Importance of Sleep

See? Goku’s got the right idea.

Runners, particularly when getting close to big races, need to properly manage all sorts of stresses and ensure that their bodies remain in optimum shape. Ice baths, massages, heat pads and so on all go a long way toward maintaining a happy body. However, the single most important element might be sleep. Not only does it help the body heal and feel refreshed, it also provides a nice mental boost. It’s a lot easier to blow off a run or shave off a few miles when you’re feeling tired.

We live in a time with all sorts of distractions and things to do. Movies, computers, video games, etc. But few things can match up to or surpass the simple, pure joy that comes from running. And to enjoy it properly, the mind and body need rest. Although I did hit 75 miles this past week, which is right on target, I was not sleeping anywhere near enough and I felt positively miserable yesterday. Though I got myself righted somewhat last night, the fact remains that I’m still in a bit of a sleep debt that could take a few days to properly shake.

It seems like a no-brainer to say that sleep is essential, but it’s easy to lose sight of that when other obligations come up. Managing stresses and other activities is essential for running success. You can slog through a night or two of little sleep, but when you’re trying to do marathon training off 7 or fewer hours of sleep a night, you’ll be surprised how quickly fatigue can pile up. Because I was sleep deprived, I couldn’t find the will to do a proper workout this week, instead focusing solely on mileage. Having learned my lesson, I plan on getting my sleep schedule back in order. After all, in just one week I’ll be doing my first half marathon and then a month after that, it’s time for Steamtown.

The next five weeks will require lots of nights staying at home while my friends go out, and making sure I stretch, ice, eat well, and do everything I can to make sure I’m properly prepared. Disciple is important, but staying mentally sharp is important as well, so I would never say to lock yourself up and blow friends off entirely. Even Quentin Cassidy in Once a Runner got depressed with no human contact. Managing all the different aspects of one’s life might seem a tall order, but trust me, if you start off the day with a good night’s sleep, suddenly it will all seem a whole lot easier.

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