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Why Sleep is Crucial to Experiencing a Healthy and Injury-Free Winter Training Season

alix tri2You wake up and mark your calendar – I don’t care if it is the Boston Marathon, the Cherry Blossom 10-miler, or a myriad of other races you are planning to run before/during/after winter, you’ve committed to a race and you are going to have to train for it.

And, as we watch our friends pig out on brie, red wine, cookies, and other foods – because while we love these things (or whatever your food downfall is) the reality is that while everyone is indulging, the training must ensue. This in itself is a good thing, for it allows us to eat more of the brie!

So as the days grow shorter and the temperature falls there is a lot to be excited about. For those of us who live in the northern half of the United States, the falling temperatures mean more comfortable running conditions (for now), the turning leaves of autum and the fresh scent that cooler air brings. In the southern half of the US there is a cooling trend that happens there as well. Even states like Florida experience cooler temperatures which can bring relief for those states, even mine, that experience a hot gooey stickiness that eventually subsides as summer turns to autmn.

But with that change in weather brings a lot of stress – the holidays in particular are a particulary stressful time for many of us for a myriad of personal reasons. Training through the winters sometimes makes things easier, and sometimes harder. The holiday season and it’s flu seasons, cooler weather, and shorter days include lots family obligations, expenditures, and planning.

And through the pain of the season – whether we are stressing about what to buy people for the holidays, or in this economy, if we can afford to buy them at all, or if we are thinking of people we wish were still with us, like my parents, for example, the fall, while a beautiful time of year, is also one full of more activity, stress and sadness than any other time of the year.

Running sometimes cannot cure everything, and if we are not carefull, we are the ones who can get sick easily or get injured. 

So with all the parties, school obligations, parties, office events, parties, family visits, and more parties, it is easily to fall into a pattern of sleep deficit.  Also, for those of us missing our loved ones, it is not uncommon for people to drink more, feel depressed, and therefore, become fatigued. The fatigue leads to stress and the stress leads to injury.

Therefore the biggest thing we can do to fight stress and keep strong this winter (and all year) is to merely:

Go to bed

I don’t care how much sleep you think you need. Go to bed.  I have made it a habit to try and get to bed an hour earlier every night of the week if I can. This rule is broken for CSI Miami on Monday nights but the rest of the week I am in bed w/lights off at 10 PM.

Here are the reasons more sleep is good for you.

1. Injury prevention: you are physically stronger and more aware when you sleep more, and, more importantly, glucose metabolism can be affected by sleep deprivation. This is bad on many fronts as glucose metabolism is the main biological activity that we (whether you realize you are doing it or not) are enhancing while we are training – and if this is affected by sleep deprivation then we are only making training more difficult because recovery then becomes more difficult.
2. Better decision-making: when we are not sleep deprived we make better decisions – poor decision made by being tired can only add stress to our lives.
3. Improved mood: We all see what happens when a child is sleep deprived – he/she become irrational and crazy and if you think that does not happen in adults you better go back to bed and sleep on that!
4. Better immune system: the well-rested person is better able to fight disease – there are numerous studies to support this fact – see the list below.
5. If you are stressed you will not sleep well – but if you get in the habit of nurturing yourself before you go to sleep you may be able to prevent insomnia, which affects all of us.

Research Articles

  1. Psychiatric research builds link between sleep, stress, cancer progression
  2. The connection between sleep deprivation and mental illness
  3. Scientists Find Brain Areas Affected By Lack Of Sleep
  4. Sleep Deprivation Can Hinder Sports Performance 

Proper Hand Care

  1. Hand Sanitizers Must Contain Over 60% alcohol to be Affective.
    According to we Americans spent over $540 million on hand sanitizers last year but this did not prevent illness per se.   That said, if we remind ourselves to be overly cautious in the area of hand washing and other acts of sanitation, I am all for it. During flu season, one cannot be too careful.
  2. Touching Doorknobs and Light Switches (even in your own house)
    It cannot hurt to wash and dry your hands with a paper towel and then use the towel to shut off the light and open the bathroom door and let yourself out. Just deposit the paper towel in the nearest trash can.
  3. Hand Sanitizer
    Go ahead an use a hand sanitizer if it makes you feel better. Just remember the minute you touch ANYTHING else you have a new set of germs. See:
  4. Washing Hands
    This should not merit an explanation.


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