So, you’ve got the running bug and now you want to see how you can progress? Well, before you can consider breaking the sub-four-minute barrier, there are some things that you need to take into consideration.

Training as a runner can often lead to a pretty packed schedule, so finding time to train, eat, work, have a life and sleep properly too can seem like a lot to take on, but it can be done. Take a baseline and find out how you’re going balancing you current commitments by taking a quick energy quiz.

One of the most influential things that will benefit your running, is, in fact, the act of doing nothing. Well, not quite, but what we mean here is sleeping. Rest and recovery are vital to reaching peak training levels as an athlete, and in this article, we’ll go on to explain in more detail just what the importance of sleep has when it comes to optimizing your running training.

Before we go any further, there are some helpful additional pointers that will ensure you get solid, quality sleep on your road to becoming an athlete which you should be noting down.

If you do any of these things, consider removing or adjusting accordingly:

  • Regularly drinking alcohol; this should be limited.
  • Consuming heavy meals before bedtime (three-hour time gap).
  • Limited smart device use down to two hours before bed.
  • Limit caffeine within six to eight hours of bedtime.
  • Worrying too much. If you’re fretting about fitting in training runs, or you’re stressed about races, don’t. This is something nearly all runners experience. Try sleep banking to help with this.

Why is sleep so essential as part of an effective training plan?

Sleep plays such a large part in every educated athlete’s training plan, and for good reason. Essentially, it helps you to be able to make the most of your hours and hours of dedication when you’re clocking up the miles, come rain or shine. It’s all about staying in peak condition, and sleep is on hand to make sure this becomes a reality.

A lot of the time, people will ‘get into’ running just to lose some weight or to keep fit. However, with it being such a moreish sport, it’s often the case that, before you know it, you’ve fully got the bug and it’s taking over your life! But, sleep deprivation will stop you in your tracks if you aren’t careful.

One thing that reduced levels of sleep brings about is inconsistencies with our appetite-signalling hormones. Don’t get enough sleep and you’re far more likely to have pangs of needing to eat more. Obviously, for people looking to lose weight and stay in shape, this isn’t good.

On the other hand, get some sound sleep in and you’re setting yourself up to remove those unnecessary hunger signals, which will increase your ability to stick with a healthy diet. The good news for all the runners out there is that, when you blend a solid night’s sleep with exercise, you’re increasing your chances of trimming down on your weight; not only this, you’re more likely to keep it off too.

Sleep deprivation really does mess things up! Losing sleep weakens the body’s ability to store carbohydrates, which is a bad thing for endurance athletes like runners. Another bad thing is having an inadequate sleep space, so make sure that you have a good bed set up; The Sleep Advisor has some great information on the best mattresses.

Sleep really is one of the most important components for training and here’s a really good example for you…

While you’re in the deeper stages of sleep, our human growth hormones (HGH) are released. HGH assists in repairing muscle and transforming fat to much-needed fuel, while also helping to strengthen bones.

Take that quality of sleep away and you’re left with reduced HGH levels. This impact of this is that recovery time is affected after a workout; not good! What’s more, sleep deficiency can also increase cortisol levels, which are stress-related hormones, which act to slow the recovery time you have.

These are just a handful of the reasons why sleep, and lack of it affects runners. It’s essential to take on board these points and introduce them into your regime, or you risk not reaching your potential, sustaining ongoing injuries, and basically not enjoying the sport.

In short, get enough sleep on a regular basis and you’re on to a winner without even moving a muscle! The best way to work out your optimal sleep need is to go to bed and not set the alarm for a few days.

Try this when you ideally when you have some leeway in the mornings just in case you do oversleep. Most people find they’re in a range of about six to nine hours per night, but you may be different. Try it and see what works for you!