Scheduling Runs to Maximize Sleep

We only get 24 hours in a day, but how we arrange them makes all the difference. As a full-time working mom of three young kids, I do all I can to squeeze in my workouts without sacrificing too much sleep. I know the value of training for increasing productivity and relieving stress, but also value the importance of sleep for recovery and optimal cognition.

When looking at your weekly training schedule, do you have certain “set” times that you prefer to train? Maybe you’re an early-morning runner, or an after-work group fitness devotee. Or maybe your workouts get squeezed into an ever-changing schedule, as mine often do. Having some flexibility in planning your workout times can help you maximize both training and recovery. I track my sleep using the SleepIQ® app, and can see that my SleepIQ trend improves when I creatively manage my schedule to get more sleep.

Here are a few tweaks I’ve found to fit in workouts without sacrificing too much sleep:

Start with your most available workout time.

For many working parents, this is early in the morning before the day’s schedule takes over. My best chance to get in my goal of five runs per week is to include two early morning runs. I prefer for those to be easy runs, as I have a hard time hitting fast paces right after waking up. Having coffee helps a little, but sometimes I need to push key workouts to a later start time to keep the quality up.

Consider your ‘favorite’ training time.

I feel best (and run fastest) when I run at lunchtime, so I try to schedule a lunchtime run once a week. Fridays are often a good day to set aside lunchtime for an outdoor run that doesn’t cut into my sleep.

Maximize your weekends.

Are your weekends jam-packed or laid-back? Many runners prefer to only schedule one run on the weekend, to allow for more family time or other activities. In my sleep-deprived stage as a mom of three, I prefer to run both Saturday and Sunday most weeks, as it is easier to add a weekend day than another early morning weekday run. I don’t have to start as early, and I can run while the kids enjoy a ‘quiet’ morning at home.

Consider night runs.

Could you get more sleep by doing a 9pm run instead of a 5am run? Sometimes running late is a good thing! Use caution if you’re choosing an outdoor route after dark, or hit up a treadmill. Either way, you can enjoy sleeping a little later the next morning.

I usually skip dinner if I plan a late-night run, opting for a protein shake or smoothie instead. It’s best to keep the intensity light, as late workouts can negatively impact sleep. With young kids, I’m so tired I still fall asleep the minute I collapse into my comfy Sleep Number® bed, so this hasn’t been a problem! If I feel sore post-run, I’ll adjust my Sleep Number® setting down a bit so it feels even more cozy.

Modify your schedule.

If you’re just too tired to fit in your planned 60-minute workout, but 30 minutes sounds feasible, go with that. Training isn’t about hitting your workouts 100% of the time, but doing just enough to get what you need out of it, without wearing yourself down so much that you get sick or injured.

Multitask.

On active recovery days, consider squeezing in training with your family! Getting out for an evening family run/ ride/ stroll can be enough to allow your muscles to recover, while not cutting into your sleep schedule. Plus, the fresh air can help everyone sleep better.

Try out a few of these tips to see if you can squeeze more sleep into your training routine. To learn more about the power of sleep and how you can sleep well to maximize your fitness and performance, check out the Sleep Number blog.

Sleep well, run fast!

Rebekah Mayer is the National Run Training Manager for Life Time – The Healthy Way of Life Company.  

Just like diet and exercise, sleep is unique to each person and important for optimal health and professional performance. Sleep Number® beds adjust on each side to your ideal level of firmness, comfort and support — your Sleep Number® setting — for your best possible sleep.