Sleep Better With Runtastic Pt. 6: How Sleep Improves Performance

by Peter Hiller

Is sleep all that matters when it comes to athletic performance and recovery? I’ve devoted myself to this question and, while preparing for my trainer certification, I did some reserach on training effects during recovery. Besides massages, physical therapy, relaxation, etc. sleep is also considered part of the recovery phase.

As a certified trainer, I often asked myself why many young athletes are prone to injury. Over time, things have changed in the sports world (running track materials, street runs, etc.) and we have come to realize that nutrition also plays vital role. However, sleep and recovery are essential if we want to improve our performance and fitness. Realizing this has given me a whole new perspective on training.

Regeneration – there’s a lack of understanding
It’s really important that my athletes understand the importance of sufficient recovery time and sleep. There’s so much information about this topic out there, yet there’s still a lack of understanding. People need to actually implement this knowledge.

To the younger athletes I work with, weekends and going out are important. My experience “in the field” has confirmed that just one or two evenings out on a weekend can render the training of a whole week nearly void. This is only due to the lack of sleep, without even factoring in nicotin and alcohol consumption.

Sleep helps us reach our goals
I rely on two methods to teach my athletes to sleep enough and regenerate. On the one hand, I remind them that they have talent and want to achieve something. To reach one’s goals, simply showing up for practice is not enough. They also have to focus on sleep and a healthy lifestyle. If they don’t focus on these key components, they’ll come to a point where they’ll ask themselves: Why is my performance stagnating? Why am I constantly struggling with injuries?

I’ve had very positive experiences training athletes who actually get the importance of regeneration. Athletes have to be willing to cut back on or do without certain things. In addition to sleep, patience and sacrifice in sports are two topics besides I am also currently focusing on.

Runtastic race day

It’s vital to consider sleep when preparing for a competition
Besides sleep and recovery when training, the actual competitions are another, essential topic among athletes. It’s not possible to build a sleep reserve and make up for a lack of sleep. It’s vital to develop a strategy for competitions, that includes a quality sleep regimen. If a sporting event is set to take place early in the morning, going to bed at 7 p.m. the night before won’t help. You should stick to your usual bedtimes. However, practicing the ideal training and sleep rhythm the weeks prior to a competition is what helps. On the other hand, if you’re planning to attend a competition at 9 p.m., for example, it might make sense to do your training later and adjusting your bedtime and the time you get up in the morning.

Not sleeping in one’s own bed can also reduce sleep quality. But, one single night in a new surrounding does not normally deteriote an athlete’s performance. When it comes to international competitions that last for several days or weeks and include planes, traveling, etc., this is something to keep in mind. Top athletes tend to have the ability to adapt quite well. But, we still try to get to the competition location early so that our athletes have time to acclimate themselves.

My tip for leisure athletes to improve their performance
Defined training and recovery phases are essential in high-performance sports. When to do which type of training is one of the most difficult decisions and requires in-depth education of the trainer. Plus, every person is different, which doesn’t make it easier either. A few hours can make a whole world of difference when it comes to an athlete’s performance.

This is not only vital for top athletes. Leisure athletes need proper regeneration and good quality sleep. A scientifically developed training plan including recovery phases can support leisure athletes in their quest to improve their skill and ability (i.e. improving performance in a marathon). By taking the time to choose the right training times and specifics, you can substantially improve your performance!

About Peter Hiller:
Peter Hiller is director of an Austrian sports club, ULC Linz. He was a high-level athlete in Austria until he turned 30. He then got certified as teacher and trainer and started working with young athletes. Due to his job in the economics sector, Hiller stopped teaching for almost 15 years before he resumed his job as trainer and professor in various Austrian sports academies 10 years ago. He has dedicated a lot of time and  research to regeneration and sleep in sports.

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