You’ve heard it before, but recovery is a critical part of your training. If you are aiming to improve in triathlon, then you need to make recovery a focus. If you don’t, then training will be, stop start, frustrating, and can make you ill.
There are many ways of recovering, but one which often goes by the wayside when people are trying to fit in training, and a full time job, is sleep. You may try and cram in a session late in the day, and this can affect your sleep for the night, then you may want to get up early to “fit in” a swim, already you are compromising your recovery for these sessions.
So what actually happens when you sleep?
Your body releases growth hormones.
These hormones help your body to increase muscle growth, you need to get sufficient sleep for this to happen. If you are sleep deprived your body also produces the hormone cortisol, which can break muscle down.
Your body repairs itself.
When you do a training session your muscles get damaged and get micro tears in them. When you are sleeping your body can repair the damage, this is how muscle grows and rebuilds, making you stronger.
Your metabolism stabilises
If you are sleep deprived, then your blood sugar levels are not regulated as well, and this can cause weight gain, as your body fails to respond to carbohydrate ingestion. You may still feel hungry, even when you have eaten a normal meal.
What can I do?
So, what can you do about it? It’s important to go through all the stages of sleep for adaptations to happen. If you are not getting enough regular sleep (around 7-8 hours, maybe more!) then you need to identify why this is happening. Is it because you are trying to do too much? You may be better off scaling some sessions back, or looking to re-prioritise a few things. Think about what is essential, desirable, or could be removed from your daily routine. It may be that you are spending too much time in front of a screen or bright light before bed, there are many studies to show that this impacts the quality of your sleep and your ability to get to sleep. More on this here
Addressing these things, can help you to create habits which are not only beneficial for your training adaptation, but also for your overall wellbeing.