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The relationship between sleep and running

Sleeping well and for the right amount of time can increase your running stamina, writes Nandini Reddy

We live in a hyper active culture that has us on our toes constantly. We have over committed our time an energy to a a ton of obligations. But the most important factor that needs to remain unchanged irrespective of our lifestyle is the number of hours we sleep. You have probably read that you need 8 hours of sleep but it is highly likely that you are clocking in less than 5 hours a night. As a runner, sleep is as important as nutrition and exercise.

Maybe if we understood why we need to sleep then we can be more convinced to actually give it the attention it needs.

Weight Loss

A regular sleep schedule can do wonders for your weight loss efforts. When you get less sleep your hunger hormones run haywire making you carve food at the wrong times or feeling less sated after a meal. All marathoners tend to carb load before a race but if you don’t get enough sleep then the glycogen energy reserves that you need for the race will not build up properly and you will hit the fatigue wall sooner than you expect.

Body Repairs

Distance runners need sleep to ensure that their muscles recover from their training. It was observed in a research that athletes who got enough sleep showed a marked improvement in their running performance. While you sleep, the growth hormone is released when you are in deep sleep which helps recover your body. This hormone is essential to help the body rebuild from the affects of workouts. The growth hormone also helps in converting fat to fuel and keeping your bones strong. Too little sleep means you will feel more stressed and your recovery time will also increase.

Water Re-absorption

While you sleep, the kidneys help in establishing the water balance in your body. When you run in summer and sweat a lot, there is a high risk of dehydration. Just drinking more water is not the solution to ensure your body stays hydrated. It is also important to let the kidneys do their work to balance the sodium, electrolytes and water in your body. Dehydration can lead to fatigue and muscle pain. So a good night’s sleep can do wonders to ensure that you are not dehydrated and your body electrolytes are in balance every morning.

Mental toughness

Sleep helps clear your mind and improves your concentration and helps you run with a clear mind. Sleeping better also improves your ability to analyze training plans and race day performance. A mentally tough runner can overcome every hurdle that he might encounter during tough races.

Maintaining a Schedule 

You need to set a sleep schedule. It will take you up to four weeks to get habituated to it but if you can set up a schedule then you will see that all other things will also fall into place. You will start to eat and train at a scheduled time. Sleep also helps you combat pre-race anxiety, improve your memory and decision making ability.

You might be able to get by with a few nights of bad sleep in a month but on the whole you need to have a sleep schedule that you stick to if you want to improve your running performance.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

 

An irregular runner who has run in dry, wet, high altitude and humid conditions. Loves to write a little more than run so now is the managing editor of Finisher Magazine.

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The Challenge of being Healthy

From being engrossed in her books to winning cycling and duathlon events, Dr Sruti Chandrasekaran has come a long way in her fitness journey. She shares her story with us.

The Early Days

I was never a fitness person during my years in school. I was the class nerd who would only study and participate in academic competitions. Any kind of sports was my arch enemy! I abhorred Physical Training period and also skipped assembly if there was anything related to sports happening then. My entire lack of interest in any sort of sport related activity was because of the physical effort it involved. I was so unfit in my school and college days but I topped my tests and joined medical college. That was the the first time I walked on a regular basis.

My college was in Kilpauk (KMC) and I used to get down at Chetpet and walk for 800m to college. Those 800m were an incredible physical challenge for me. Apart from that I had no exercise during my 5 1/2 years of medical school. My books took up all my attention and energy. I always was on the chubby side ( to put it in a nice way!) with a BMI that was in the overweight range. Yet it never bothered me and after my graduation I moved to USA for my medical training. It was during my first pregnancy that I gained another 30kg. I was 25 yrs old, weighing in at a 100kg after my pregnancy and looking at everyone around me who were super active.

My Epiphany

My professor of medicine used to cycle to work and another female professor used to run 3 to 4 times a week after having 4 children. That is when it hit me. I now decided that I have to take care of my health and stop ruining my body. Fortunately despite my lack of exercise, incredible weight gain and erratic eating habits I did not have diabetes or other metabolic problems like PCOS/PCOD.

So after assigning the back seat to my health until the age of 26, I had finally decided to take control and for the first time I started exercising. Naturally the first few weeks were terrible. My body was ridden with aches and pains and I gave up many times. It took me 6 months to get into a routine and start regularly hitting the gym with cardio and weight training.

The Runner in Me

The road running obsession began 4 years later when I turned 30. That was probably the best birthday gift that I IMG-20171115-WA0020gave myself. My first 10k run at 30 yrs and then came the second pregnancy and a break in between. I took 6 months break after my C-section and then resumed exercising again and since then have done 10k and half marathons regularly. For the past 1 1/2 yrs I have also taken up road biking as my husband is an avid biker who bikes to work. I instantly fell in love with cycling as it was fast, the effort you put in cycling was very different and I lapped up the constantly changing scenery. I began to realize that with proper training one can definitely do well with any sports that you choose.

On the Podium

My recent podium finish at the Duathlon and Datri cycle ride proved to me that it is always better late than never.  I started exercising very late and I do feel bad for not taking up sports during school and college days. As an endocrinologist who manages diabetes, PCOS, dyslipidemia and other metabolic problems, I do emphasize the importance of exercise to my patients. Now instead of just giving advice I would like to set an example to them and also to my daughter. Seeing the rise in lifestyle related diseases like diabetes I want to be a healthy woman, healthy mom and raise healthy children. Running and Cycling has been a great way for me to sustain this healthy lifestyle and inspire others to start their journey of good health.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

srutichandrasekhar

 

Dr Sruti Chandrashekar is an avid runner and cyclist who went from being a bookworm to a fitness enthusiast. A doctor by profession and a passionate runner and cyclist, today Sruti wants to lead by example.

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