Sleep is an essential component of any runner’s training plan. In fact, getting the required amount of sleep each night can help your muscles recover and repair from previous workouts, boost your immune system and resistance to sickness and improve the quality of your workouts. The problem is, most of us have a lot on our mind, and when it’s time for bed the stress of the next day’s itinerary can make a peaceful night’s sleep all but impossible.
Use these tips for runners to ease your worries and plan better for the day ahead.
CHECK THE WEATHER
Wind, rain or even blistering hot summer conditions can influence a number of things, including how long and hard your run will be and what gear you’ll need to use. While you’ll still want to double-check in the morning to make sure the forecast hasn’t changed, it’s a good idea to get into the habit of checking the weather before you go to sleep.
This helps you mentally prepare for the conditions you’ll face, alter your training plan if necessary, and prep your gear accordingly to stay safe and comfortable. In some instances, particularly if you live at a higher elevation, checking the weather may help you determine if driving to a different location to run is a more suitable alternative.
Most runners have different habits when it comes to eating before a workout. If you’re the type who doesn’t leave a lot of time before getting out the door, laying out exactly what you’re going to eat can make things less stressful in the morning. Set the timer on your coffee maker, layout your energy bars and banana, or prep the ingredients for your breakfast shake so you can consume your nutrition without much hassle.
If you prefer to wait and eat after your run, prepping your meal the night before helps you avoid falling into the trap of eating unhealthy foods following a workout.
LAYOUT YOUR GEAR
Like prepping breakfast, laying out all your gear makes things less stressful and allows you to get out the door sooner. It also ensures you don’t forget anything vital, such as charging your GPS watch or smartphone. Instead of finding a bunch of excuses to skip your run when the alarm goes off, you’ll have your running shoes and shorts at the foot of the bed, so there’s less time to convince yourself to skip it.
WORK OUT SORE SPOTS
If you’re a morning runner, your body can begin to feel stiff and achy late in the day. Working out some sore spots before going to sleep can help you feel more relaxed, refreshed and have a more positive outlook on the next day’s workout. Whether it’s foam rolling sore muscles, icing achy tendons or joints or coaxing your spouse into a short massage session, working out the kinks helps you feel better and makes it easier to get a good night’s rest.
REVIEW THE NEXT DAY’S ITINERARY
Yes, looking over your training plan is necessary so you know how you’ll need to prepare mentally and physically for the next day’s workout. But what you’ll also want to do is see what else you have planned for the day. Physical therapy appointments, family responsibilities and errands are all other things you have to fit into your busy day, and planning when you’ll do things and how much time you’ll have after a run for stretching and recovery ensures nothing gets overlooked.
If you wait for that notification on your smartphone for something important that needs to be done a few minutes before it’s scheduled, it usually means you’ll have to abandon some other task you were meaning to do — and that only causes stress.
TAKE YOUR SUPPLEMENTS
If you take supplements, you probably have them in the morning with breakfast. While it might be a good idea to layout some of your vitamins along with your breakfast prep to ensure you don’t forget to take them, there are actually some vitamins and minerals that may be better taken at night — especially if you often have a hard time falling asleep.
Vitamins like B-12, B-6, C and D can give you trouble if taken at night, but a B-3 vitamin (niacin) along with magnesium can be sleep aids. Try splitting your supplements into morning and evening groups to receive the maximum benefit.
Relaxing before bed is an important part of getting in the right frame of mind for a good night’s rest. While some people might enjoy watching TV, listening to music or reading, meditation can be an excellent alternative to create peacefulness in the body and mind. Instead of letting stress get to you in a way that affects your sleep, practicing meditation helps put you more at ease and frees your mind from common anxieties that can affect your rest. While it can take some time to master, you don’t have to make it overly complicated. For 5 minutes before you climb into bed, close your eyes and concentrate on taking slow, deep breaths. You’ll be pleasantly surprised how much a difference such a simple practice can make.