So, How Many Hats Do You Wear?

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Pensacola, Florida, United States
Husband. *Dog Dad* Training Specialist. Runner. Triathlete (on hiatus). USATF LDR Surveyor. USAT (Elite Rules) Certified Official, Category 2. RRCA Representative, Florida (North). Observer Of The Human Condition.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Miles To Go Before I Sleep

"Sleep: A poor substitute for caffeine." - Author Unknown

Very short topic today. Not that I didn't have longer topics I could approach, but this one was definitely good. My morning ritual used to include getting out of bed at five o'clock sharp & going to either the gym or the pool before work. But I consider myself fortunate this time of the year, in light of my goal event choices. Since I'm training for a late-winter marathon (Rock n' Roll/Mardi Gras), I only need seven-to-nine hours a week in training. Those extra three-to-five hours I spent at the pool or the gym are - at this moment - spent on activities many (including my wife) consider an underrated guilty pleasure. I'll go briefly cryptic here: Think of Robert Frost's most memorable quatrain. If the only Frost you can recall is the poem "Stopping By Woods On A Snowy Evening," you're halfway there.

For those who don't remember: "The woods are lovely, dark, and deep. But I have promises to keep. And miles to go..."

Sleep is definitely a guilty pleasure around the Bowen house. If I were smarter, I would schedule every weekend workout for high noon & unplug the alarm clock (my greyhound sleeps until he hears an alarm or figures it's past breakfast time). Ah, but then half of the day would be shot. When I wrote about recovery a couple of months back I realized I left sleep out of the equation. Not only is good sleep necessary for mental health, but also for physical recovery. Poor sleep or not enough sleep is not only a sign an athlete may be overtraining, but it can also reinforce overtraining's damaging effects.

How important is good sleep? I've done some foolish things in the past: Come home after a tough day at work & make a beeline straight for the refrigerator. Pull out a 12-ounce bottle of Milwaukee-(or Atlanta, or Abita Springs) brewed goodness. Twist or pry off the cap & take a nice, healthy swig. Breathe sigh of relief. Finish remainder of bottle while watching SportsCenter. Dress for track workout. Run crummy workout.

Going without sleep can whack you cognitively as well as physically. A 1997 study found the cognitive defect from 17 (or more) hours of wakefulness equaled the performance deficit of a person with a blood-alcohol concentration of .1 percent. That used to be the legal limit in many states, I think. Depriving yourself of sleep - even for one day - can change your mood, mess with your immune system, eat at the lean muscle mass you want to keep, & cause you to be more adversely affected by heat & cold conditions.

If you have ever felt like going postal in your workplace, don't be too surprised, but one of the symptoms of workplace burnout had to do with getting ineffective sleep, the type which did not lead to relief from fatigue. Contrary to what Neil Young has sung, it is not better to burn out, friends.

Make yourself a promise - get your miles in, but make certain to get your sleep. Frost - and his neighbor - and the horse you traveled in on - would tell you it was a good idea.

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