Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Fighting the sleep fog for the good of the run

Today's run (treadmill): 25 minutes

Am I done yet?
Every evening I follow a process to prepare for my morning workout. This involves a  few steps, beginning with check of the morning weather on the local news channel. I then select my running gear based on expected conditions at 4 AM. My favorite part of this process has nothing to do with running. It's the discussions I have with my son and daughter who talk to me while I get my gear ready. It only takes fifteen minutes from start to finish, but I've had some of my best conversations with my kids during those times.

Last night my son and I were discussing sleep. I asked him if he ever looks forward going to bed and he said that he doesn't like to sleep. He recognizes the need for sleep, but doesn't like that it takes away from his (many) interests. I had to agree, to a point. As it happens, I typically get 5 to 6 hours sleep on weekdays and 7 to 8 hours on the weekends. Even with those brief interruptions there never seems to be enough time.

But sleep is seductive. Getting up and out of bed after a deep sleep is very hard to do. It's especially difficult to maintain a commitment to run while your brain is still suppressing histamines, norephinephrine, and serotonin. The only way to break through the fog is to give yourself an ultimatum: "Regardless of how I feel, I'm running."

That's what it took today to get me on the treadmill. Once the machine began to turn, I was able to distract my focus from sleepiness to being semi-alert. I'm afraid of the treadmill so my safety instinct took over and, by the three minute point, I was running at target for the first phase of a progressive speed run. All residual effects from sleeping had passed, and I thought about pushing harder to get my heart rate up into zone 4. I ended up meeting my goals and felt energized throughout the run.

In the end, I'm always happy that I followed through on my commitment to run. It's almost an act of faith to go through the motions of putting on running clothes while eyeing the bed that they sit on. But every time I run when I want to rest, I feel better mentally, physically and emotionally. You just have to believe that you'll get past the fog.

4 comments:

  1. Did you always run in the mornings? I love how I feel when I can manage to get up and run but I can count the number of times I have been able to get up before work to run on my hands. I do think I need to run more in the morning because it would help my racing as they are always in the morning. I always do better at races that are at night and I think it is because that is when I usually get out to run.

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  2. I run every weekday morning around 4:00 AM. Crazy, but it works for my schedule and, by getting it done in the morning, I have the evening to spend with my family.

    I'm not surprised that your race times are better at night, though I'll bet it's not because that's when you train. Studies have shown that people hit their performance peak early evening, regardless of when they train.

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