Monday, July 30, 2012

Choosing Sleep

Being a new dad (or mom) is not easy.  This shouldn't be a surprise to anyone, especially those that have gone through the process.  Being a new parent AND being an athlete is even more difficult.  I pretty much get any runs done first thing in the morning, otherwise it won't happen.  There are too many things going on later in the day that can distract me and until it gets cool enough to bring the little man with me, nearly impossible. 

So with a schedule that requires being awake by no later than 5 am to get in any decent distance in, you have to be committed to it.  And for these first 10 weeks (crazy that he's already that old!), I have done exactly that.  At least 4 out of the 5 days during the week, I'll be out the door by 5 to get my run in, then its time to shower and shuttle off to work for a full day, before coming home to enjoy the remaining hours of the day as a family.  This model is great, because it allows me to have "my time" when everyone else is sleeping and when I come home, I can be dedicated to everything else, instead of thinking how I can sneak in a run.

However, this has had one impact on me that I have been dealing with - weight gain.  Now, if I am being completely honest, I know it isn't all from a lack of sleep.  Since we don't have the same flexibility/time to cook up gourmet meals that take time and prep to make, we've slipped into a cooking funk.  We still eat pretty well, but we're just not getting in quite the healthy diversity we used to get.  But getting nearly 50% less sleep really does have a huge impact.  Sleep is when your body recovers, but a lack of it has also been linked to weight gain.  Specifically, the body becomes less efficient at burning calories.

This makes complete sense, because I have been putting in roughly the same number of miles a week (35-45) as I would otherwise be when not in marathon training.  And the total caloric amount I consume isn't all that much different.  So to me, the only variable that has changed is sleep.  Sometimes, as little as 4 hours when the little man decides to be a night owl and not go to sleep until after midnight.  With a 5 am wake up, that doesn't leave much time for sleep.

Further, I have noticed that my ability to recover from some of the tougher workouts is much longer.  I haven't been able to bounce back nearly as quickly, so I'll feel sluggish for a day or so.  Its more of a heavy legs feeling that usually goes away after a mile or so into the next run.  But something I've noticed that wasn't an issue previously.  Again, the only common denominator in this equation is a lack of sleep.

But nonetheless, I have carried on with the schedule because it has been the only way to make it work.  But lately, I have been trying something different to see if it has any impact.  And this is only possible because temps are finally not over 100F.  I am sleeping in when possible, but still getting up early a few days a week.  My hope is that the extra sleep will help my body get back some of its metabolism.  Additionally, we are also working harder to get back to eating better.  Now that things are more on a consistent schedule, we are able to better managing things.

It will never be easy, but I have always been committed to making it work no matter what.  If it means that I have to carry a few extra lbs, then so be it.  This is MY lifestyle that I CHOOSE to live by.  And I will always do what I have to do to make it work.

Go Skins...err...I mean, Daddy!

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