Chasing Zzz’s

As I’m sitting at work, staring at my screen, feeling like I could literally fall asleep with my hands on the keyboard…I’m realizing it’s only 9:30am and I’ve still got 6 hours to go. Geez. In the past week, I’ve had a few late nights (late for me – hit the hay at 2:30am) combined with my usual wakeup time of 5:30am. And frankly, it’s been killing me. KILLING me! I’ve done stuff like this before, and I always know what it’ll be like and that I won’t love it, and for some reason I always forget just exactly how hard sleep deprivation is on my body. Especially when I’m training!

So, what better way to pep talk myself about going to bed earlier than write a post on the importance of sleep? Though I’ve had fun choosing to stay up with friends, boys and life in general, I know I need my sleep in order to function during the day.

We’ve all been told that we need to get X amount of hours of sleep per night to live a “healthy” lifestyle. Well, when you’re training, the same rings true. Your body NEEDS things – things like water, nutrition, proper amounts of good fats and sugars AND sleep. Think about it. Who doesn’t love sleep? Or a good nap?

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Sleep is a necessity. For example, when recovering from a long run or intense workout, sleep is just as important as rehydration and refueling. For real. Studies have shown that lack of sleep directly interferes with the metabolism of glucose, which is what muscles depend on for proper recovery, and even though it will vary for each individual, generally speaking, someone who’s training for a marathon or other race will need more sleep than someone who isn’t training to rebuild muscle tears and support muscle growth. All for the recovery process (and because you’re usually just tired after you run 25+ miles). Sleep, along with proper hydration, nutrition, stretching and strength conditioning, should be incorporated into your training schedule – regardless of what you’re training for.

Silhouetted Woman Running at Sunset

Sleep also directly affects your immune system. Get this – those who have 6 hours or less of sleep per night have 50% LESS immunity protection than those who get 8 hours of sleep. If you’re training and feel you may be getting a cold, make sure you get at least 8 hours of sleep each night! One, for recovery and two, for immunity strength so you can continue in your training instead of holding off for healing.

Lack of sleep has also been linked to weight gain. There’s a hormone in your brain – Leptin – that regulates your appetite, and when you don’t get enough sleep, it isn’t secreted in accurate amounts, which can lead to more cravings during the day…more eating than normal…and weight gain. True story.

Now, the amount of sleep needed for top performance will be different for everyone. You may be able to function just fine on 4 hours while your friend needs at least 9 to perform well. Figuring out where you land on the sleep spectrum will totally help with your training!

If you can’t sleep the night before a race – don’t sweat it too much. Experts have found that just like nutrition, it’s the sleep you get 2 nights before a race that your body will be relying on for the majority of your race. I have lots of friends who carb load the night before a race. Though I don’t think that’s a bad thing, I don’t follow it religiously. The same is with sleep – I have one friend in particular who runs ultra marathons and two days before any race, he’ll take either some melatonin or Tylenol PM and knock himself out for a good 12 hour night of sleep. Says it helps him with the mental battle you deal with while running 50+ miles. That’s what works for him.

One thing is for sure – I know that when I stick to my sleep schedule and don’t vary on the weekends, my mind is more clear during a race and my muscles don’t fatigue quite as quickly. My recovery is also better and I’m able to get back to training right away instead of taking days to recoup and nurse my muscles back to health 🙂 This has been true during holidays, when I’m on vacation or just during a “regular” week of work and training. Plus, I’m always naturally happier when I get enough sleep! EVERYONE IS. And who doesn’t want to be happier?

All that being said…time to start chasing some zzz’s! Mr. Sandman, bring me a dream…

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How to Survive a Relay Race (And Live to Tell the Tale)

While sitting in the airport on my way to the Ragnar Napa Valley Relay, I was told several times how crazy I was for doing relay races. “You don’t really survive and I don’t know why anyone would put that stress on their bodies.” – random grumpy guy next to me. Well, good news, buddy…you totally can survive. There are definitely tricks of the trade and I’ve got a few up my sleeve 😉

Whether it’s a Ragnar or another relay race, there’s something hilariously fun about constantly driving around in a decorated van with a team of 12 people who are all decked out in costumes, munching on a smorgasboard of food and goodies, keeping the windows down for the smell, cheering on teammates and other runners, pulling to the side of the road to sleep for 2.4 hours and having energy to all cross the finish line at the same time. 2013-06-22 18.20.01

Sounds a bit tricky, eh? Well, it’s somewhat easier than you think. Trust me. It’s totally doable! And there are great things about relay races – meeting new people & making new friends, traveling to new places, seeing new things, discovering new tricks/treats for your next running adventure and, if you’re planning on more races, it can be good for training.

So how to survive the lack of sleep and running on and off for 24 hours and be able to walk the next day? I’ve done a few Ragnar in my day (5 total-my favorites are the trail relays! Try them out). Here’s my 10 all-emcompasing tips I always share about relay races:

  1. Before you go, do your research. Become familiar with which legs you’ll be running. Know the distance. Know the elevation changes. Know if you’re running on pavement or dirt trails. Mentally prepare yourself for however long, short or strenuous your legs will be. story-27-ragnar-2-205914
  2. Do a pre-run shake out & post-run stretching. Regardless of what time it is. It could be hot or cold, windy or rainy. You might be running 9 miles or 2. It doesn’t matter-warm your body up and cool it down (and don’t eat too close to when you run). stretch-me-out-skinnyrunner_thumb
  3. Get out of the car any time you can! Take the chance to stretch your legs and body. Move around when you wait at the runner exchange. Don’t be sedentary and stay crammed in the car until it’s your turn to run. No bueno. Picture-8
  4. Share your goodies. Letting others eat your frozen banana-peanut butter bites is, strangely enough, a great way to bond. They might love them and it could start a running recipe exchange. By trying things everyone brings (a pot-luck of goodies), you’ll find things that you bring that others like and things others bring that you like and you might be surprised if you find yourself sick of the food that you brought. images-2
  5. Sore? Tired? Hungry? SO IS EVERYONE ELSE. So please, don’t whine. Do something about it! There will be food in the car – eat it. There will be jackets/pillows – take a nap on one. There will be moments to stop – get out and stretch. Duh. 1 Ragnar Lupe Sleeping
  6. Cheer on your team (and other runners). You never know when all that one person needs is a little encouragement from a random car passing by. You might hit your own mental wall and need some motivation from others! image25
  7. Take care of your team! Be aware if runners need more hydration, pain killers, gu or other things to munch on. If the weather changes, ask if the want their visor, jacket or more water. One of the BEST things that my team did for me during a 4 mile 2,000ft elevation climb in 99 degree weather – toss a spray bottle filled with ice water out the window. I spent that 45 minutes constantly squirting myself and other runners with cold water. Couldn’t have survived without them! 2013-06-22 12.46.53 2013-06-22 14.21.09
  8. TAKE WIPES. 24 hours of stinky runners crammed into a car-they’re a portable shower. Just trust me on this one. Remember, even liquid awesome can smell bad. 9a87f0f828a4854245d193affb6718eb
  9. Take pictures. Take them of your car decorations, the entire team at the starting and finish lines, runners smiling (or not) during their legs, people sleeping, strange things that happen, the scenery that you drive past, team members making funny shapes…anything and everything. Beautiful scenery (there’s tons on the Ragnar-pretty sure they do that on purpose). It’ll be more fun 🙂 422052_10100879747066799_1810023603_n
  10. If you’re not having fun AT ALL, you’re doing it wrong. Though there is a competitive air that comes with any race-Ragnar included-one of the greatest things about the Ragnar though is that it can be an absolute party. Seriously. Screen Shot 2013-09-18 at 9.36.23 AM

Wear clothes that won’t but (or chafe you). Sleep any chance you get (for real). Make new friends. Have a team splurge meal after the race. Have a team meal before the race. 478876_10100245036698224_601272120_o

Love the new scenery-there are some absolutely beautiful running paths on the Ragnar. Embrace the craziness. Have massive amounts of fun. Run your own race. Own that 24+ hour relay like a total boss.

So, good people of the running world – keep calm and Ragnar on #fistpump

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