Sleep is for more than Dreaming
I'm a night owl, and I love to stay up half the night working on my projects. The bad news is that society expects me to be up early for my day's activities. The result is that I'm usually in sleep deprivation, and this is a killer for good running (and good life in general). Jim Fixx in his book The Complete Book of Running said
Runners need plenty of sleep. Fatigue tends to accumulate quickly if you don't sleep enough, leaving you listless, unenthusiastic and susceptible to colds. Sometimes, job and family responsibilities, late-night television and a daily running regimen make it hard to find time for enough sleep. If you can bring yourself to do it, turning the set [and the computer] off a half-hour earlier works wonders. -- The Complete Book of Running, Random House, New York: 1977, p. 180
Slow Down Heart, Slow Down!
|I've forgotten where I picked up this tip on pulse rate, but it is a jewel! When you first wake up, measure your pulse rate as an indicator of your body condition. The time you wake up is the one time that you can measure your heart rate consistently from day to day. Many of us don't realize that our pulse rate varies according to our body conditions. It increases, or is elevated, when we are sleep deprived or are under fatigue or stress.|
When I ran marathons in the early 1980s, my wake-up pulse rate was 44. A friend at work said that was so slow that I had time to go out for a hamburger between beats. One morning I measured my pulse rate at 40. I thought that was a fluke, but it stayed at 40 during the remainder of my marathon training. Now, I'm older and my wake-up pulse rate is in the mid 50s, but I can still get a hamburger between beats if I hurry :)
As I've monitored my wake-up pulse rate over the years, I've discovered that a night or two of significantly insufficient sleep will raise the rate by 10-20%, and it will probably take a week of proper sleep to bring it down! I've learned that when I run with an elevated pulse rate, I don't have my normal endurance during long runs. I get colds more often. I do dumb things like driving through stop signs. Yes, my wake-up pulse rate is a great indicator of my body-condition.
When I measure my wake-up pulse rate, I walk slowly to the bathroom so I can turn on the light without disturbing my wife. I measure my pulse for 60 seconds, using my watch as a timer. My initial PR is usually 2 or three beats high, due to the walk to the bathroom, but it comes down as I sit quietly in the bathroom. I measure my PR several times until it has stabilized. I use my fingers to feel the pulse at the pressure point next to my left ear (don't use your thumb because it has its own pulse). Some people will measure their pulse for 15 seconds and then multiply it by 4. That method, however, is inaccurate because a one-beat error in the 15 seconds translates to a 4 beat error in 60 seconds, and for long distance runners that 4 beats is close to 10%.
Colds, Colds, what is a Cold?
Before I started running, I would get 3 or 4 colds each year, and it would take a week or more to get over them. After I had been running for a year or two, I realized that I wasn't getting colds anymore. Colds have disappeared from my life, except ... except when I over train or get insufficient sleep. Even then, those colds only last a couple of days. Those colds are how my body tells me to back off and get my life in shape. Heeding those signs has helped me be free of injuries during many years of running. I can't claim that you'll have perfect fitness and won't get colds, but running should help your immune system to be stronger, and your body should have a greater chance of resisting the "cold bug". You should have better health and should enjoy life more.
To read about the stress caused by running, read my page on stress. In addition, here is an article by Jeff Galloway on getting sufficient rest.