Why you should plan a few days between your travel day and your race day
Giving yourself a bit of time to acclimatize to your new surroundings following a flight overseas is a good idea.
To question the effectiveness of every recovery method known to running may be the theme of the decade. While ice baths, heat therapy and stretching keep receiving mixed reviews in research, the value of a consistent sleep pattern seems to persist. Research reveals links between sufficient sleep and optimal performance, and evidence for correlations between a consistent lack of sleep and unfavourable running conditions (such as a limited cognitive ability and an increased risk of injury) keep piling up.
But, questions are being raised around the importance of acute sleep (meaning the night before competition), and its bearing on performance. According to research from the University of WisconsinMadison, the most important sleep-related predictor of success on a time-to-exhaustion test was the ratio of sleep between the night before the contest, and one’s regular amount of hours slept. Those who slept more than average on the night before testing, unsurprisingly, performed better than those who slept less than average on the night before testing. Based on this result, runners should try to have their best sleep of the month on the night before a race.
But, to have one’s best sleep at the right time proves to be a t all order, especially when destination races and i nternational travel are mixed into the equation. Indeed, research out of Charles Sturt University in Australia suggests that global travel conditions may be linked to compromised slumber. In a randomized crossover st udy, inter nat iona l and domestic t ravel condit ions were simulated by replicating the reduced ox ygen ava i l abi l it y ex per ienced when f lying at altitude, the seating arrangements, and the number of body movements t ypically encountered during both types of air travel. Interest ingly, sleep patter ns varied sig nif icant ly bet ween both conditions on the night following t ravel. While no effects of domestic travel were evident in successive bouts of sleep, the quality and quantity of sleep of participants in the international t ravel condition were reduced, meaning world travelers may be prone to a bad f irst sleep following their f light .
Keeping in mind the possible importance of acute sleep on performance, giving yourself a bit of time to acclimatize to your new surroundings following a f light overseas is a good idea. The next time you travel to that longawaited exotic destination to lace up, leave as well in advance as you can. Plan your tourism ventures for the days before the race – while trying your best to limit your international delicacy intake – and give yourself a few days to catch some shuteye. Alex Cyr is a P.E.I. native who lives and trains in Windsor, Ont., and is the author of the running novel, Runners of the Nish.