Counting Sheep: Runner's Guide to Good Sleep

There's a misnomer about runners and running. Training for a single marathon averages 500-600 training miles. Most people think;

"You must be in great shape!" (For the most part, I'd say this is true.)
"You must have insane energy!" (This is where we start to differ on the topic.)

I was going to say that after running 500 miles, the last thing you want to do is do it again, but that's not true either. We go straight back to the next race (sometimes with a brief break,) but we're all "right back on that horse" logging tons of miles and pushing our body's limits. Just like Forrest--we get TIRED from all that running.

Back to what we can all agree on, to perform at a high level, or even "get through" a marathon training plan, there are three+ fundamental aspects to training;

1) The training plan itself. Do not deviate (unless due to injury or illness, or unforeseen circumstances.)
2) Nutrition. Runners vary widely on this. Elites do not. Their bodies are their temples and they watch their nutrition very closely. I've had to work on this one myself.
3) REST. Nearly all training plans have a rest day (or cross-training or slow-paced days,) but for the average runner (including myself,) you need to "re-charge" the battery. This not only means taking the occassional day off from training, but it also means, get some good sleep!
3)+ I won't elaborate here, but I'd also add strength and stretch routines is the third "pillar" of a strong marathon training plan.

Back to the sleep piece, we have ALL had training runs where we simply "did not have it" that day. With life, work, family and other interupts, it's impossible not to have these type of days, but one thing that's within your control is "banking" sleep to "re-charge" that battery.

Research shows that "most of us" get an average of seven to nine hours of sleep in a night. Pro athletes? They can log ten to twelve hours of sleep in a night. I suspect that's a combination of "recharging" but also--they're TIRED! I'm not an elite athlete, but like many marathon runners, we've all had that Sunday afternoon where we completely "crash" on the couch from being exhausted after the long run that morning.

I should add the 3++ aspect to training and that's "listen to your body!" If you are tired, you need rest.

Casper is an innovator in the mattress, sheets, and pillow market that decided that "grandma's" old box spring and heavy mattress needed an overhaul. With a complete line of products including their uniquely designed mattress they are also promoting "Sleep Like a Champion: Sleep Tips for Athletes." No pun intended (some are eye openers, and others are common sense."

I will add two bonus tips to the above infographic and those are sleep tips prior to a race. One is that the first year I ran the Boston Marathon, I watched the video of the course in the John Hancock booth which gave me "goosebumps" but one thing that stood out from the many experts talking about Boston is that the most important night of sleep is not the night before (you're a bundle of nerves and won't sleep a lot anyway,) but two nights before. Plan to get a full night's sleep two nights before a marathon and you will be much fresher on race day.

The second and last bit of sleep advice was from Meb Keflezighi's book "Meb For Mortals (reviewed HERE.) Meb also acknowledges that the night before a race is tough to completely "zonk out" the entire night. He has some of his early morning race fuel by his bedstand--no point in tossing and turning without benefit. He starts fueling, then tries to get back to sleep.

What sleep tips do you have or have been successful in your training?


  1. Oh gosh, my sleep patterns are horrible. I get about 5-6 hours of sleep a night. Although, I do get naps here and there during the day which really helps keep me rested up.

    1. 5-6? Don't know how you manage on so little sleep. Are you a run cyborg?

    2. Ha...I think the routine is weeks at 5-6 hours then I finally crash and need a couple days off running and extra sleep. I've been sleeping in the last three days lol


Post a Comment

Popular Posts