Sleep, Rest and Balance
Since finishing the Iditarod Trail Invitational, people have been asking me ”What’s your next race?” Well, I don’t have anything officially scheduled. I have big plans for next winter but I‘m taking the spring and summer off for a number of reasons.
Most importantly, my right Achilles tendon and calcaneal heel spur condition has reached the point where I absolutely must do something to fix it. I’m having surgery on April 27th and will be out of commission for several months. I’ve been doing everything I can nonsurgically to this point and it hasn’t worked.
Though I really want to train super hard and keep rolling like I always do, I’m using this as an opportunity to force myself to take a prolonged period of time off from running. I’ve been training pretty much nonstop for more than 10 years. I have lots of options of maintaining my fitness-- hot yoga, strength training, my garage HIIT workouts, Jiu Jitsu, etc.
In a previous blog post, I talked about the importance of rest. Today, I want to expand on that by writing on a topic of a similar nature and of extreme importance. I’m talking about SLEEP.
I would love to discuss all the details of the neuro-hormonal physiological processes that occur during sleep and also explain what happens during naps. But I would bore you all with medical minutia.
During a normal eight hour or so sleep cycle, obviously the body heals. Energy stores are repleted and reset. Memories and learning are locked in. Injuries, inflammation and cellular damages are repaired. Fitness is gained as a result of the musculoskeletal and cardiovascular stresses placed on the body from daytime exercise. (Fitness is not actually gained during a workout but between training sessions.)
We all know how we feel after a really high-quality good night’s sleep. The following day, we’re sharper. We’re happier. We’re more positive.
Consider the opposite. After not enough or a poor night’s sleep, we are cranky. We make mistakes. We get headaches. We rely on caffeine. Cumulatively, think of how unhealthy this is for us.
To be blunt, if you’re still sleeping when your alarm goes off, you’re not getting enough sleep. And, if you need caffeine to wake you up in the morning, you’re not getting enough sleep. Using a stimulant when your body wants to sleep, clearly is unhealthy. Do you agree? Be honest with yourself.
Several years ago, I committed to forcing myself to go to bed much earlier. Also, when I am able, I try to sneak in a 20-minute nap during the day. I feel like a million bucks after these power naps. Don’t you?
I’ve said before that adequate sleep/rest is one of my “secret weapons.” It takes great discipline, efficient time management and prioritization of our many and varied responsibilities. Like everything in our lives, when pursuing optimum health and wellness, we must give our best effort.
In summary, it all comes down to balance. Yin and yang. Using my ankle as an example, I sustained a long-term injury as a result of training too hard and too much. Now it is time to restore that balance by taking some time off from running. I’m putting my body in the shop. This time also will allow me to spend more time with my family. I can tackle some long-awaited home projects. I’ll focus on becoming more skilled in Jiu Jitsu. I can continue my efforts at becoming better at meditation.
Before long, I’ll be healed up (hopefully) and back to putting in the miles.