Runners are tough and determined. It’s who we are. We push ourselves to become better by running to the edge of collapse over and over again. We welcome discomfort, we enjoy fatigue, and we smile through the pain of the last mile knowing that we are in the process of becoming a better version of ourselves.
However, training hard is counterproductive without a sensible recovery plan. We cannot grow if we are always in motion. We must rest and recover fully if we are to reap the rewards of our training efforts. An aggressive training plan will result in injury and burn-out unless it is balanced by a prudent recovery plan.
Importance of Sleep
Sleep is your primary means of recovery from training stress according to coach Joe Friel, author of Fast After 50 and the best-selling Training Bibles series. Friel says “There is nothing else you can do that will help you recover faster or more completely.” During sleep, tissue-building hormones testosterone and estrogen are produced and released into the body to promote growth and aid recovery.
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Elite runners take advantage of this natural recovery process by napping between workouts. Oregon Project runners not only nap, but try to get as much as 10-12 hours of sleep each night. Coaches are convinced that sleep and nutrition are the keys to unlocking athletic potential and peak performance.
7 Bedtime Rituals for Better Sleep and Recovery
- Consistency – Try going to bed around the same time each night and follow an established routine that will prepare your body for rest. This is a good time to stretch, foam roll, and do some light reading.
- Dark, Quiet, and Cool – Your body follows a natural circadian rhythm which is triggered by environmental conditions. Turn off the lights, and try to make your bedroom a cool, quiet sanctuary.
- Alarm Clocks – If you depend on your alarm clock to wake you in the morning, you probably aren’t getting enough sleep. Try to go to bed at an earlier time that allows you to wake up naturally.
- Tart Cherry Juice – In recent studies, researchers have found that tart Montmorency cherry juice is a natural way to boost melatonin levels and improve sleep quality. In one study, adults who drank two daily glasses of tart cherry juice slept about 40 minutes longer, on average and had up to 6 percent increase in sleep efficiency.
- Foam Rolling – Foam rolling helps to break up the myofascial adhesions that occur in our muscles. Massage therapists do this with their hands, but not all of us can find the time or the money for massage therapy.
- Stretching – Gentle stretching or isolated active stretching exercises will help relax your muscles and prepare you for a restful sleep.
- Protein Before Bed – A light snack that is high in protein may contribute to better sleep according to a study done at the University of North Dakota. Greek yogurt, almonds, or roast chick peas are just a few healthy snacks that are high in protein.
Cherry Marketing Institute is a client of Jason Saltmarsh.