The importance of sleep

I’ve always heard runners discuss the need for sleep for recovery. Sleep is key not only so you don’t feel tired but apparently your body undergoes a bunch of chemical processes during REM to repair your muscles and whatnot. I’ve never struggled to get enough sleep– I always fall asleep easily and generally sleep through the night unless I’m sick. When I was training for CIM I’d say I averaged 8-9 hours per night and when I was really running a lot there were nights I got 10. Lately I’ve been in the 6-7 hour, sometimes 5 hour range. I haven’t really felt it affecting me negatively (well, I’m a little grumpy by Friday but it’s not horrible) except for running.

I’m still running a lot and I still like it, but I’ve noticed lately that my times are slipping just a bit. Not enough to be concerned but there are times it feels like I’m running in a cloud. I just feel heavy. And it’s not muscle fatigue or too much running or anything– it’s just whole-body exhaustion. I couldn’t pinpoint what was going on and then I realized that my sleep debt was probably catching up to me. Which is ok. It’s not forever. But it’s a good admonition for all of you out there who have the option of sleeping more to do so! It really does matter!

I also realized this week (and ya’ll can yell at me) that while taking your stress out by running is probably a healthy outlet, there is a place for NOT taking it out running. Like, when you’ve run 24 days in a row. I know. The body needs rest. I know. No seriously, feel free to yell at me but I didn’t do it on purpose. I track weekly miles (which are not out of control) but not days run and I realized yesterday that I hadn’t rested in weeks. So this morning I just went to yoga. Which was nice. It’s been bizarre here– really, really cold and rainy so I’m still in the mood to lay down and stretch in a warm room.

While most people have trouble with overeating and gaining weight when they get stressed I have the opposite problem. And I’ll get vulnerable here (and let me be clear– I do not have an eating disorder. I ate my body weight in greasy chinese food last night, eat full-fat dairy, etc). The more stressed out I get, the more I exercise and the more careful I get about my diet. When I’m loose, happy and carefree I’m all about the cookies, the wine and the fun. And that can cross a line. It’s easy to get self-righteous and to claim that because you’re not having drinks at happy hour every night, not smoking and not drowning your stress in cookies that you’re healthier. And for the most part, that’s true. But when you go 24 days in a row without a rest day and start freaking out because you ate a mini cupcake at your boss’ birthday party (which was worth every calorie I might add. Oh and might I also add? MINI) a line has been crossed.

No one had to confront me here (and let me re-emphasize, I’m not in any danger) but if you’re a compulsive worker-outer like me, just watch yourself. Make sure that you’re not crossing a line. I always say “all things in moderation” about the bad stuff, but it matters for the good stuff too. So that’s why I didn’t run this morning. My poor little legs needed a break! And I needed my mind to be ok with chilling out. And I’m totally having a drink after work (although it won’t be happy hour since I never leave in time!).

Also, sorry I haven’t been commenting on anyone’s blogs. It’s been insane. But I’ll be back soon. Doesn’t mean I’m not reading because I totally am!

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5 responses to “The importance of sleep

  1. atalantasapples

    Ahh! I have exactly the same issue with eating more and working out less when I’m happy and carefree. When I’m stressed out, I convince myself that I “need” to run, even when I’m on some injury-producing streak or mileage kick. And I start beating myself up about foods, too; it’s probably some impulse to control something since there are so many things out there that can’t be controlled. Well, nonetheless, glad you recognized it and took a day off! 🙂

  2. i’ve been wondering this recently… maybe the past year of 5-6 hrs sleep most nights (5-6 nights/week) has built up and caught up to me. my “easy” pace has dropped 15-30 seconds! 😦 i’m just hoping once i move back home i’ll get regular sleep hours back / a better schedule and start running better?

  3. oh by “dropped” i meant gotten worse… in case dropped sounded like an improvement. it sure has not improved!

  4. I do the same thing when I’m less happy. I am far more strict on myself. Granted, I’m glad it’s not the opposite problem, but it’s still a problem.

  5. I am the opposite – stress makes me fat and lazy which just makes me more stressed so I’m not sure that’s worth it either – but thank you for posting this.

    Have you checked your iron levels? Running a lot can make you anaemic..

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