The Daily Grind: The Importance of Sleep
As a team, we readily identify lots of benefits from working with a coach - in our case via a team based plan with Jacob Fetty of Cycle-Smart. The coaching calls are an endless source of equal parts humor and knowledge (don’t underestimate the importance of the first part - we do race bikes to have fun after all). And the team element of the plan has been helpful for building cohesion in training and racing while also allowing enough individual attention to attack specific problem areas that vary from rider to rider. Which brings us to the latest journal entry in our ‘The Daily Grind’ training series: the importance of sleep.
2019 marks my tenth year racing bikes and if there is any benefit from that experience its familiarity with the ins and outs of structured training. That familiarity doesn’t make the build from off-season fitness to race fitness any easier, but having the basics down frees up time to focus on specific shortcomings elsewhere in my training regimine. And in my case, my biggest shortcomings are schedule related: too little time to train and too little time for recovery. It’s tough to do anything about the former due to real world obligations, but Jacob and I have focused heavily on the latter in recent months and the difference on and off the bike is remarkable.
In fact, one of the first things Jacob and I talk about on our team calls is my sleep cycle. I have made dedicated effort to get an extra 30 minutes of sleep each night, even if it means cutting a workout short here and there. But especially as training intensity cranks up with the start of race season and more intense training efforts, that extra thirty minutes has made a noticeable difference in my recovery cycle. I feel fresher on the bike, and off the bike I definitely notice more mental energy, even if I am still drinking possibly excessive amounts of coffee during the work week. The other recovery changes have been straightforward and again focused on maximizing sleep: as much as I prefer morning workouts, getting up to ride at 5AM inevitably costs me sleep, so I’m back to nocturnal workouts after the sun has set. And to insure that I’m going to sleep at a halfway reasonable hour, I cut off caffeine mid-afternoon and rely on a bit of melatonin to help enforce a self-imposed bed time.
Admittedly, none of these changes are rocket science or anything close. But every single year I see too many racers try to do too much training with too little recovery or too little sleep. That is especially true with road season getting fully underway in New York City with races starting at 6AM or earlier. And over the course of the season it inevitably contributes to burnout as racers start dropping like flies in late July and early August after trying to burn a candle at both ends since racing kicked off in early March. So if you’re dragging in your training, or just want to insure you survive a potentially very long race season, I recommend taking a cue from Jacob’s recommended playbook and focusing on your sleep cycle. It could be a game changer…