Monday, June 18, 2018

Who Cares About Sleep When You Can Do It In School?

"Who cares about sleep when you can do it in school?"                                      Corny Collins, Hairspray

Matt Fitzgerald  -  I've steered you to his writing/philosophy before but let me do it again. I've never met him, but I'd like to one day. I'm not related and we're not in any business deals that I'm aware.  But I own at least 3 of his books.  His writing style is relaxed, knowledgeable and rarely intentionally inflammatory.  But it's always well researched and accurate.

I wanted to focus on sleep this time.

Matt's opening quote in the Complete Triathlon Book: "You can do more than you might think to prevent general fatigue - a great epidemic in our society to which triathletes are especially susceptible..."

More in a minute.


Each Thanksgiving The local Turkey Trot goes right by our house.  I think there are about 3,000 runners, walkers and strollers. It's really a fun group with many in costume.  We're almost at the two mile mark of this 5K event and I make it a point to set up my own "aid station" with, well of course, what else would your body cry out for after running this distance on Thanksgiving morning, preparing as it is for the onslaught of food?  That's right, Bloody Mary's.  The competitors reactions have been quite predictable from the, "What, are you kidding me?" to "Alright, you the man!"  Most, however, just wave.  I usually run out.  Life is good - and you can quote me on that.

My in laws live in the Chicago suburbs and we spend Thanksgiving there occasionally.  A couple of years ago, the local Turkey Trot course came very near their home.  It was also a 5K race on the local streets. However, sometime later in the day, someone not connected with the event noted "an unidentified white powdery substance" on the ground!  

The authorities went ape.  The area was cordoned off, 100, not two, not twenty, but one-hundred on/off duty police and fire fighters were mobilized to protect the good citizens from what was eventually determined to be.... soccer field lime from the mornings Trot.  Ha!  What a world.

Triathletes are used to squeezing more into a day than most folks.  When given the choice between lunch with the gang or shoehorning in a 5 mile run, the run almost always gets the nod.  At the end of the day when much needed rest is in order, frequently everything's not checked off the list yet. And sleep gets short changed.  Hey, it always worked in college right?

But we're not in college anymore.  And it's not academics on the plate, it's physical effort placed on a body that oftentimes is still a tad beaten down from yesterday's work outs.  Or beaten down from that half marathon last Saturday. Repeating Fitzgerald's quote, "You can do more than you might think to prevent general fatigue - a great epidemic in our society to which triathletes are especially susceptible..."

It's pretty obvious that many younger athletes can live this way and still perform at a very high level.  We all know someone who can party till 3, get close to no sleep overnight, and still toe the line at 7:30 am for the local 5K expecting to perform at a high level. And do it.  Aging athletes just can't.  And by aging I don't just mean the Medicare crowd.  This means you Ms. Forty old.

Recovery is not a four letter word but one in which adequate rest/sleep is essential.  As one gets deeper in to the training year, and the intensity of training increases, the body simply must have regular sleep to combat the accumulating physical stress.  It's during this sleep that the body releases testosterone.  This hormone has gotten more than it's share of press recently but it's certainly important.

So, particularly as we get older, we need to be careful not to compromise sleep (yes, I know it's easy to say and harder to do. And, yes, I'm as guilty as the next athlete of occasionally cutting this corner.) It's one of the few things in triathlon that doesn't cost more money, right?  So, next time you plan turkey for supper, while contemplating that luscious taste with sleep inducing agents of it's own like L-tryptophan, take just a minute to think how today's sleep recommendation can fit into your lifestyle.  Sweet dreams. You'll be a winner if you do.

3 ways to get to bed on time.

 I hear your coaches saying it. Sleep.  That said, people in this sport get a lot done every day, including training.  But at the end of the day, when the “to do” list remains incomplete, it’s really easy to think “it’ll just take 15 minutes to finish.”  If you’re like most, it turns into 45 minutes and then there’s a recap of the Yankees game on ESPN that you missed, etc.  I know it happens to me.  Best intentions of getting to bed by 10 sharp, and then I start piddling around with little stuff.  So, if you can pick a time and stick to by powering down maybe 15 minutes before, and it gets to be habit, you’ll do it without thinking and reap the benefits at the next race.  The second way would be to simply set the alarm on your phone for perhaps 20 minutes before the desired sack time and start getting ready then.

Lastly, as a triathlete you put out all your clothes and morning workout gear before bed.  Like your own little transition area.  Instead of waiting till 10, do it right after supper and doing the dishes.  That way, at 10 pm approaches, your wind down time doesn’t get extended.

This is the lobby of the King Kamehameha Hotel, the headquarters hotel in Hawaii. No, these people have not been felled by sniper fire. They are families waiting while their athletes are running IM.  Maybe they all had turkey for breakfast.

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