In the wake of marathon season (the New York City Marathon is less than a month away), I was invited to write a guest blog post about my sleep and training routines for the Grizzly Marathon in Montana. This was my first one, and I loved the training, the race itself, and the way it made me feel, but I also learned something surprising about my sleep.
My marathon training program consisted of running anywhere from 20 to 40+ miles per week, sleeping about 8 hours per night (on average), and eating much more protein than normal.
I did all of my long runs on the weekends with a medium length run mid-week and shorter runs (5 miles or less) twice a week. Friday distances were supposed to ramp up with the training, but I found sometimes I only had energy for a shorter run, or I wanted to preserve energy for my long Saturday run. In the end, I rested Sundays and Thursdays yet still found a running schedule to reach the right weekly mileage.
In an effort to understand how my sleep changed over the two months of serious training, I tracked my nights with my Zeo. I wanted to know what impact my training had on my sleep.
The results are in!
Before starting, I assumed that the more I trained, the more I would need sleep. To be specific, the more my body would need Deep Sleep in order to help build and repair muscles and rejuvenate the body. I was also concerned that soreness after long runs might hamper my ability to fall asleep and stay asleep.
It turns out that my sleep was not so simple. My sleep was always better when I had exercised: I slept more, I got more restorative sleep and a higher ZQ on days I ran.
However, when I ran 10+ miles, my sleep was almost the same as the nights when I didn’t exercise at all. Running less than 5 miles led to my best sleep. 5-10 miles had decreasing benefits for my sleep.
Check out my sleep info below.
To help with labeling,
It’s important to point out that the amount of my Deep Sleep increased if I did some exercise, but by the time I got to running my longer workouts, I actually got less Deep Sleep. That result was surprising as deep sleep is the very kind of sleep that is supposed to be restorative.
My conclusion is that as the trauma to my muscles increased, it was harder for my body to relax and stay in a deep stage of sleep.
Marathon running takes months of training. I had to balance when to push and when to get more rest. Listening to my body is something I’ve learned over years of athletic training, and I found it was well worth it during marathon training to pay close attention to how much I’d recovered from the last run before deciding on my next run.
For me, back-to-back intense workout days made it much harder to recover. If I was still really dragging the next day, I sometimes opted for no workout or a shorter workout and more sleep.
I’m about to start training for my next marathon, the January Rock ‘n’ Roll Arizona Marathon in Phoenix (hopefully keeping off the Christmas cookie pounds). Based on what I’ve learned about my sleep, here is what I’m going to do differently to help me train:
Anyone else have any good suggestions out there for marathon training and sleep? I’ll let you know after the race how it goes!Julie Penner lives in Boulder, Colorado where she skis, rock climbs, hikes, and trains for marathons. She keeps a ZQ of 81 when training for marathons, and a 75 when not. She keeps a blog, Victory in Increments to share her thoughts and experiences on a wide range of subjects.