Get Sleep Not Rest

Michael Arnstein is an ultrarunner (runs ultramarathons and longer distances) and like most ultrarunners is a facinating person to read, listen to, and learn from. Here is a good lecture from him on some details of why he runs, his diet, his motivation, his routine, etc:

There are a lot of things mentioned in this video that I’d like to comment on at a later time, but there is one thing he said that really struck me. Michael said that his main challenge in his running life and the most important part is getting enough sleep. He said that if he gets 10 hours of sleep the night before a run, he can run any distance without a problem.

He drew a distinction between rest and sleep. He said that a lot of runners tend to taper before a race. Tapering is reducing the training mileage as you approach the race, so your body is sufficiently recovered and well rested. He suggests that this is a crappy alternative for simply getting a full night’s sleep night after night, and most importantly the night before a race. You may agree or disagree with that idea, but one thing is for sure, most of us recreational athletes do not get enough sleep, and I would venture to guess that most professional athletes do not get enough sleep either, especially before a big competition.

That served as a reminder that I need to take sleep, not rest, more seriously. And also, if I know that I have to wake up at 6am for a tournament next weekend, I better be waking up at 6am for many consecutive days before then.

Anyway, I’m officially declaring to myself as a goal that I’m going to get at least 6 hours of sleep every night for the month of May, and shoot for 8 hours as often as possible. You should do the same.

0 thoughts on “Get Sleep Not Rest

  1. Beth Goldstein Huxen

    I’m glad you wrote this, and I couldn’t agree more. Sleep is SOOO important, so, so important. When I was bodybuilding I hit a plateau and my coach convinced me to prioritize sleep. I would generally get 6-7 hours. I could get by well enough on 6-7 hours but it was still difficult for me to get out of bed in the morning. Ian got me to make sure I got 8-9 hours a night. I did that and literally everything got better. My lifts were smoother, I could lift more weight, I saw more gains. And not just in sports, I was smarter in school, better at work, better with my friends, with my family — you name it. I was just better.

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  2. Eric Silverman

    Really insightful post. Getting enough sleep the night before a tournament has always been a huge problem for me and I suspect most amature athletes. Between nerves, excitment and running through different scenerios in your mind it is easy to toss and turn all night long. I basically gave up on the idea of getting a full nights sleep the night before a tournament long ago. I know myself and I know I am going to be up all night no matter what I do. Instead of fighting it and in turn becoming anxious about not sleeping (an obvious snowball effect) I counter act the lack of sleep at night with a mid day nap. It seems counter intuitive because the mid day nap makes it harder to sleep at night, but it works for me because I know I am not going to sleep anyway. It also prevents me from getting anxious about not sleeping because I know I already took my nap.

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