The “monster” month is upon us. This is what my friend Teri calls the last big push to a half or full marathon, when the big miles really start to add up. Our training is starting to really pay off. I hear people saying things like “I’m only running 5 miles this weekend. Did I just say that?” You’ve come a long way already in your training and the next month is the last big effort before race day. You have two long runs left if you are a half marathoner and 3 if you are running the quarter. It is about this time in all training sessions that we may start to feel tired or frustrated or maybe even a little grumpy. A little bit of that is normal, it is your body’s way of dealing with the added stress you are throwing at it. But too much could mean you are over-trained. So how do we deal with this sleepiness? Well the answer is obvious, but sometimes not so simple in our busy lives – SLEEP.
Get More Sleep Between Now and Race Day
You are an endurance athlete now and are training like one and (hopefully) eating like one. It’s time to start resting like one. Professional runners log ridiculously huge miles throughout a week, but they also sleep like champions. I read somewhere that Deena Kastor sleeps something like 10+ hours a night and naps at least 2 hours a day! She has the luxury of a professional athlete where training and recovery ARE her job, but we can learn from it. I realize that many of us pursue this lifestyle alongside our family and friends and asking them for a little more time so that we can sleep, seems a bit selfish. It is I guess, let’s be honest this is a bit of a selfish sport. But we are also stronger, healthier and usually better friends, parents, and partners because of it. They have put up with you this long, ask them for just one more month!
Between now and race day, try to get in a little extra sleep. Sometimes that means just trying to go to bed a half an hour earlier every night. I am so guilty of NOT doing this, so when the monster month arrives I have to make it a priority. I ask my husband to remind me and often that’s enough to get me off the couch and into the bed. If you can’t get extra sleep every night, really try to get in bed early the night before and preferably AFTER your weekly long runs (and quality workouts if you are following the intermediate plan). This is the time when the body needs the rest to do the work of recovery. If you don’t recover properly from those workouts, your body will have nothing in the tank when the next workout rolls around. Make rest a priority, just like you have with your training.
Recovery is the True Work of An Endurance Athlete
Luckily, we don’t have to consciously do the work of repairing all the small microtears in our muscles or create new red blood cells. That’s what our bodies do – it’s truly amazing actually! However, if we do not allow our bodies that down time to do the recovery work it will not happen, or it will be very slow. The time that happens is on rest days, full days off from workouts and easy/short days of running and when we get good quality sleep. This is why my training plans for both the half and quarter don’t have you running every day. The days off are part of the schedule too. I realize that many of us do workouts that are NOT running, but you should have one day every week where you do no workouts at all except maybe a little stretching.
I mentioned this above, but what is it? Essentially, it is your body basically saying “enough!” You have pushed it past it’s ability to fully recover and so each new workout is adding to the fatigue. That is obviously no fun, painful, and is counterproductive to your training goals. It can happen to anyone, no matter your fitness level. You are going along fine, following the plan to the letter just like you have done before and then out of the blue -Wham! You are grumpy, tired, achy and feel slow. All of these are signs of overtraining. So is not being able to sleep well, even though you are super tired. You may catch colds easily. If you notice this happening, or someone else says something about it to you, the way to fix it is to stop. Take a couple or 3 days off, no workouts. Reset your body. Then when you start working out again, pay really close attention to how you feel after each run. If you are feeling especially tired, take an easy day or a day off. At this point in the training, at any point really, pushing through an overtrained body will only hurt your performance not help it. Worse, you could end up injured or sick and miss your event completely.
Enjoy Your Fitness
I am so excited for May 4th! I can barely sit still when I think about it. You all have worked so hard and the proof will be on race day. Think back to the beginning of your journey and enjoy how fit you have become. Yes this next month has some long runs left, but enjoy them. You know what to expect at this point and you KNOW you can do it. Smile and pat yourself on the back, or pat a buddy, because YOU are doing it. You made the commitment and you are following through. Each run is a victory and May 4th is your celebration!
Rest up, train smart, and I’ll see you on the trail!
p.s. I am going to re-post something from last year on this same topic as well. If you want info about recovery, you can look there!