top sleeping tips for runners

Top Sleeping Tips From Marathon to Casual Runners

Whether you’re a weekend warrior or a dedicated marathoner, runners need all the edge they can get. While diet and training are super important, there’s probably one training tool that you aren’t using to its full potential — a comfortable bed. A recent sleep study at Stanford, noted that athletes who “increased their sleep time ran faster sprints and hit more accurate tennis shots than they did while getting their usual amount of sleep.”

So whether you’re trying to shave minutes off your mile time, or just trying to do four miles without walking, try some of these tips to get some pep in your step.

Consistency on the Track Starts with Consistency in the Bedroom

Just like any good habit, routine breeds consistency and consistency is the most important tool when you’re trying to see results on the track. Make sure that you’re getting to bed at the same time every night. While eight hours is optimal, anywhere between 7-9 hours on a comfortable bed should be a good place to start. That’s not bunk either, even elite runners find that this is the right amount to get them to where they need to be.

“If you look at my training plan, sleep is right there along with mileage and pace,” said Dunlap, 42, who typically gets about six or seven hours of sleep during a regular training cycle, but bumps that up to nine or 10 hours in the two weeks before a big race.
“Once I started tracking my sleep, I realized I wasn’t getting nearly enough,” says Scott Dunlap, an elite level long-distance runner. “My performance picked up dramatically when I slept more. It was the difference between finishing barely in the top 10 and finishing on the podium.”

Figure Out What Your Optimal Sleep Time Is

So a general rule to follow is take whatever time you sleep on average and then add ten minutes for every mile you’re going to run. Figuring out that baseline time on a comfortable mattress can be rough, but the shoe brand Asic actually has some good tips on how to figure this out when you’re on vacation. From their website:

The best time to figure out the perfect amount for you is when you’re on vacation. A few days into your trip (after you’ve paid off your sleep debt), see what time you wake up on your own, without relying on an alarm clock. The amount of sleep you got that night should be your goal every night.If the hour total is very far off from the amount you’re getting when you’re not on vacation, try increasing your sleep time in small increments. Go to bed 20 minutes earlier for one week, and then tack on 10 more minutes each week.

Maximize Your Mattress Time By Visualizing the Race

Jenny Hadfield, a personal trainer and author who has qualified for the Boston Marathon says you can get the most out of your time on a comfortable mattress by using it to visualize problem areas of the course you’re about to race. Light meditation can make a big difference the day before a race.

Before you hit the sack, sit in a comfortable position and focus on your breathing for five minutes to lower your heart rate, “ says Hadfield. “Breathe in and out deeply through your nose and into your belly. Let random thoughts come and go. There is no pass or fail with this; it’s all about being relaxed and with your thoughts. It’s amazing what a few focused minutes of deep breathing can do to relax you. Visualize yourself going through pre-race rituals.”

So whether you’re feeling like the next four minute miler, or you’re just looking to improve your fitness, make sure you start out by getting enough sleep on a comfortable mattress. Pros and amateurs agree, this is where you can make or break your race. 

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