Everyone knows what it’s like to be getting ready for bed, but instead of slipping under the covers you head to the kitchen. What should be a glass of water turns into a bowl of cereal, which snowballs into leftovers and a bowl of ice cream.
Unfortunately, studies show that eating large meals late at night may be a poor nutritional habit. Primarily, this advice stems from the awareness that our digestive system is not firing on all cylinders prior to sleeping. However, studies also show that eating late can actually keep us awake, which causes a host of other issues.
Pro triathlete, Jesse Thomas, offers this advice to help avoid the late-night gorge session:
“I never let myself get hungrier than a 7 out of 10. That means I snack a lot on well-balanced mini meals between 15 and 300 calories…”
Examples of “mini-meals”
- Eggs & toast
- PB & J
- Snack Bar
- Fresh fruit/veggie
- Small salad
Thomas continues, “If I eat more often, I actually eat less because I don’t turn into a T. rex at night, scouring the kitchen cupboards for every morsel of food.” In other words, by eating steadily throughout the day, your body will be less likely to reach bedtime in a calorie debt. Food binge avoided. Belly slimmed. Good night’s sleep.
German poet Christian Hebbel once said “Nothing great in the world has ever been accomplished without passion.”
Take a look at these two championship photos you’ll notice one thing in common: these runners competed with heart. They found an event that they could put their whole mind body and spirit into, and they gave it their best effort.
Obviously we can’t all compete at the world class level like the athletes in these photos. But we certainly can learn from them how to get the most out of our running experience. The answer is passion. One of my favorite characteristics of track is that there is an event for everyone. Every person on the planet has an event best suited for their talents and their goals. Our job is to find it and own it. Our job is to fight off all the excuses and fears and become the runner and person we were meant to be. Some of us will end up as marathoners, while others (perhaps the more sane crowd) will stick with the mile or 5k and be happy. The point is simply that each of us is capable of the passion displayed in these pictures. There is no greater joy in running than to know you have given your best effort – so it is our job as students of the sport to examine our hearts and be faithful to follow them to the finish.
According to the National Sleep Foundation, most adults need 7 to 9 hours of sleep a night to function at their best. The deeper the sleep (and the more you dream) the more benefits you receive. As runners our goal should be to give our body the best recovery possible now so that we can push its limits as far as possible later.
While you’re asleep your body’s growth hormones are actively building muscle mass and repairing tissues. Other types of hormones released while you sleep help your body fight off infection, which contributes to keeping you healthy or recover from illness. Furthermore, even your weight is affected by how much you sleep. Studies show that people who sleep less than 5 hours a night are more likely to become obese than people who sleep 7-8 hours. Finally, sleep helps improve your mood, which in turn improves your attitude while running.
So how do you get a good night’s sleep and enjoy all the recovery benefits?
Here are some Do’s and Don’ts as recommended by the National Sleep Foundation.
DO for a Good Night Sleep
- Treat your bed as a sanctuary from the stresses of the day. Use it for sleep only!
- Set and stick to a sleep schedule. Go to bed and wake up at the same time each day, even on the weekends. This routine will help program your body to feel tired when it’s time for bed and help you to wake up feeling refreshed.
- Dim the lights in the evening as you wind down activities. This tells your body that bedtime is approaching.
- Put night lights in the bathrooms and halls to avoid light from resetting your body clock when using the bathroom at night.
- Take a hot bath or shower. This can help you relax and cause a drop in body temperature that helps you feel drowsy.
- Keep the temperature in your bedroom cooler at night than during the day.
- Make your bedroom a noise free zone. Remove distractions such as computers or televisions. If outside noises wake you up at night try earplugs or a white noise machine.
- Turn your clock away from your bed so you don’t worry about how much time has passed.
- Get out of bed if you are not sleepy.
DON’T do for a Good Night Sleep
- Use caffeine containing products at night or even late afternoon.
- Eat a large meal close to bedtime. Your body cannot rest while digesting a large meal.
- Consume alcoholic beverages at bedtime – it can rob you of deep sleep and dreaming.
- Take late afternoon naps. If you do nap, keep them under 1 hour and before 3 p.m.
Are you getting adequate sleep? What do you do to stay refreshed?
Are freezing temperatures putting a damper on your winter workouts? You’re not alone; even elite athletes work hard to battle the elements. But don’t let the weather get you down! Here are my favorite
tips for fighting the wintertime blues:
Lose the Watch
If it’s too cold to hit your goal pace, don’t sweat it. Lose the watch and run by feel. Let your effort dictate the pace and enjoy the workout.
Switch to Afternoon Workouts
Early morning is the coldest time of day. If possible, try running after work instead. The temperature should rise about 10 degrees, which makes a big difference!
Wear the Right Clothes
Wearing gloves, a beanie or headband, running tights and a warm top can be the difference between a miserable and pleasant running experience. Keeping your body warm makes it easier to relax and enjoy the workout.
If you’re worried about getting warmed up, don’t! There’s a simple solution: shower before you head out the door. The warm water will loosen stiff muscles and prepare your body for running.
When you have a hard time getting out the door, remember the winter is only for a season. Once you get going, your body will warm up and you’ll be glad you decided to run.