October 4, 2010 burnhamcoaching

Sleep, it can make you faster!

While at Interbike last week (was it only a week ago?!) I got the opportunity to attend The Craft and Theory of Power talk with Allen Lim Team Doctor for RadioShack), Max Testa (Team doctor for BMC), Shannon Sovendal (Team doctor for Garmin), Davis Phinney, and Ben King (recently crowned USPRO champion).

Ben King

Ben King on the last lap of the USPRO Championships. You should read the report of this race if you haven't yet. Very inspiring!

It was amazing listening to some of the smartest minds in cycling talking about their latest techniques in looking for that extra 1%.  The one thing that all three of the team doctors emphasized over and over is that maximizing recovery is the key to success in endurance sports.  There has been a lot of studies done on the training dose but the real “frontier” of sports science is on maximizing recovery, and the more we learn, the more  we realize how important sleep is in our training programs.

I think we all know that sleep is key to recovery.  It doesn’t matter how good your post ride nutrition is, how many massages you get, or how many layers of compression socks you put on.  If your not getting enough pillow time you are leaving some potential on the table.  If you still aren’t convinced about the importance of sleep and sports performance you can read this, or this.  If your trying to improve performance, a goal of 8 hours of sleep a night can give you that last 1 – 2% of potential.

I think most athletes approach sleep with the best intentions but it can be very hard to change bad sleep habits.   Starting with a few basic changes can make a huge difference.  Here are a few I have found helpful:

  • Avoiding TV an hour before going to bed.
  • Reading something light and non-emotionally engaging before bed.  You want to avoid anything that is going to wrap you up in a story and keep you awake longer.  I tend to read non-fiction books before bed but find what works best for you.
  • If you stay up late working on your computer, install F.Lux.  I am guilty of staying up late working on emails, doing data analysis, or watching ridiculous videos on you tube.  I started using this free program a few weeks ago and it has made a huge difference in allowing me to fall asleep faster after turning off the computer.
  • Limiting coffee after noon.  OK, this was a hard one and not something I always adhere to but when I do it makes a big difference.  It has been shown that caffeine can have a noticeable effect on us 10+ hours after ingestion.  That 3pm coffee could be what is keeping you awake at midnight!
  • Keeping a regular sleep schedule.  Most night I try to go to bed around 9:00 – 9:30pm and wake up around 5:00 – 5:30am.  I work well early in the morning and I try to give myself the opportunity to use those productive hours. I find not using a snooze function and rolling around in bed for 10 – 15minutes when waking helps me keep a better sleep schedule and just feel better overall throughout the morning.

If you like data and keeping a objective record of your sleep you should check out the MyZeo sleep trainer.

MyZeo Sleep Trainer

This is was referenced by all of the team docs and found to be a useful tool for several pro riders.  A tool like this can help identify your “sleep stealers” to maximize your sleep time.  Kind of like a power meter for your recovery! I haven’t used one yet but it is on my list as something to try soon.  Stay tuned for a review soon!

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