Running on No Sleep

Today’s workout: 11.5 miles easy/recovery On Friday night I was woken up 12 times by my little ones.   My husband is pretty great about getting up and helping to tuck them back into bed or administer medicine, but it’s still a long night of broken sleep for both of us. Like most parents of young kids, nights at my house do not usually include a blissful 8 hours of uninterrupted sleep. Instead, like many of you, the stillness of night is punctuated by the cries of small children. Nightmares, sickness, glasses of water and lost blankets. We are left with bits and pieces of sleep that we try to cobble together to get as much rest as we can. I recognize that this is just a stage of life for myself and my family. As the children grow they will need me less and less throughout the night. But for now, the lack of sleep has a profound effect on many things – one of them being my training.

As a runner, I know how important sleep is to proper recovery. But life often gets in the way and prevents me from logging the “recommended” 8-10 hours a night.   As a result, after nights of broken sleep my training often isn’t all that I’d hoped for and I’m left with low energy and struggle to hit prescribed paces.

We know that getting consistent, solid sleep is crucial to running recovery. But on days that you aren’t able to get the sleep you need, here’s how to make it through:

Running on No Sleep? Try This:  

-       Shift the workout: If you have the option, you can wait and run the workout later in the day. After rough nights with my girls I’ve often moved my 5am run to later in the day. Either mid-morning at the gym or (if that’s not an option), later on during nap time. I’ve even moved it to later in the evening when my husband is home or after the kids have gone to bed. Getting those extra hours of sleep in the morning can mean the difference for me between a disaster of a workout or one that’s decent.

-       Change the workout: I’ve done this one many times. If you can’t move the time of your workout, adjust the distance or paces.   Make that tempo run into an easy 7-miler and shift the tempo to another day when you’ve gotten more sleep.

-       Power nap: If you can, take 20-30 minutes out of your day to close your eyes. When I worked full-time I would occasionally head to my car during my lunch break and close my eyes for 20 minutes. When my children were really little, I tried to nap when they did.

-       Let it go: There are just some days where lack of sleep can mean that the workout doesn’t happen. Trust your running enough to know that one extra day of rest will not ruin your whole season.

When your kids are young your training may not be the very best – and that’s okay. I struggled with wanting to control my training and get every workout done while hitting the very best paces.   I soon learned that, young kids or not, I don’t have as much control as I’d like. Do what you can, when you can and try to let the rest go.

Do you have other tips for those of us who are getting less sleep?

Related:  How to Improve Your Sleep to Improve Your Running