Sunday, August 31, 2014

More On Morning Run Or Sleeping In?

Picture by S Veerasathankul from Flickr
I last wrote the earlier post way back in 2009. That was based purely on my own opinion. Back when I was still training seriously, I used to get up at 4.20 am,  leave my house at 4.50 am, ride to the pool as swim training starts at 5.30 am. Yes you read correctly, we jump in at 5.30 am sharp.

Best thing about those early morning training sessions? Most triathlon (or running races for that matter) start at 7 am or slightly later so I'm used to getting my body race ready for the early start times since I get up much earlier for my training sessions.

But I just read an article (by staff in charge of recovery at the Australian Institute Sport) where researchers showed how morning workouts affect your sleep.

Sleep monitors were worn by the elite swimmers at the AIS on their wrists during a 14-day training period. The swimmers had 6 am workouts scheduled on 12 out of the 14 days with 2 rest days.

Here's what the data showed.

The white bars are the athletes' overnight sleep, black bars are their training sessions (usually twice daily) while the grey bars depict their afternoon naps. What caught my attention was that the swimmers got less sleep when they had early workouts. According to their sleep monitors, the athletes slept  only 5.4 hours before training days compared to 7.1 hours before rest days. They also took longer to sleep and spent more time lying awake in bed probably due to the fact that they were making an effort to sleep earlier before training days.

This is despite the fact that these are full time athletes who have no particular need to train at 6 am. I've stayed at the AIS in Canberra before, that's how the swimmers, rowers and triathletes among other athletes living there train.  Partly as a legacy from previous times when athletes were not training full time.

Moving the workouts an hour or two later would help these athletes get more sleep and help them perform and recover better too. For those of us juggling a full time job, family and training, you probably need to be training first thing in the morning as other things occupy your attention during the day.

What strikes me in the chart above is that the athletes going to bed later before rest days and thus making it harder to fall asleep earlier on the other nights (in order to wake up for your training). Try to get to bed at a consistent time (even on nights when you don't have an early training session next morning) so that your body gets into a routine where the early wake up is not a rude shock.

Get to bed at 8 pm every night? I can hear the protests already. Is that trade off worth it? You have to decide for yourself.


Sargent C, Halson S et al (2014). Sleep Or Swim? Early-morning Training Severely Restricts The Amount Of Sleep Obtained By Elite Swimmers. Eur J Sport Sci. 14 Suppl 1:S310-315. doi: 10.1080/17461391.2012.696711.

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