I’ll sleep when I’m dead is a popular point of pride for the average high achiever. You probably told yourself that by sleeping less you can get so much more done and therefore if you only live once shouldn’t you try to do live and spend as much of your time awake doing things as possible? Another approach to this thought is that while others are sleeping you are grinding, building yourself up and you are going to destroy your competition. You might even look to Michael Jordan and become inspired about how he was always training earlier, more often and more intensely than anyone else. You’ll tell yourself, see, that’s the way I have to do it too. The truth is that this high-performance athlete took his rest very seriously, he may have woken up at 4 or 5 am but after 3 hours of practice he would eat, then nap, recover and repeat before sleeping an 8 hour night. The average person certainly can work just as hard but you would need to prioritize your performance in a single thing and have everything else in your life squared away to properly increase your intensity to the same degree. Does that make sense?

If I did my job right you might begin to feel a little annoyed and discouraged by this idea, thinking that exercising is useless since you’ve got a whole life to live. Great! So hopefully now you don’t actively look towards injuring yourself and understand that the marketing behind “working hard” literally isn’t healthy and can lead you hospitalized because you weren’t told the whole picture. But, if you’re very detailed oriented you might realize that the secret sauce to recovery is sleep. If you take a single thing away from this conversation it should be that sleep is the fundamental basis of our livelihood. It is so fundamental that some scientific theories postulate that being wakeful was a random adaptation and that sleep is what life began as being. During sleep your hormones are pumped and cycled, your muscles and tendons and bone tissue rests and regrows, your brain is flooded with cerebral spinal fluid and refreshed, and your memories encode from short term storage to long term storage. It’s been found that more sleep in professional athletes had a significant correlation (rough connection) to better precision and performance. When you sleep your performance battery is tuned up to high performance. Not getting enough sleep on a consistent basis means that you are likely to experience mood disorders, become more likely to become addicted to substances, become more reactive, anxious and frustrated. Long story short, if you prioritize sleep after running as well as on normal days you will definitely benefit. Each person’s sleep patterns are extremely individualized but regardless of how much you sleep on average I want you to try to increase this by anywhere between a half hour to an hour or more than you currently do. Sleep more.

Finishing a difficult workout, you might find that your legs are heavy and are difficult to move, you might feel more lethargic, bloated and puffy. The following days you might experience Delayed Onset Muscle Syndrome (DOMS) also known as “holy fuck my body hurts so bad”. These days the modern media might describe this as your muscle tissue being broken so that it could “regrow stronger” and in some cases and kinds of exercise this may be partly true but in fact your muscle tissue is much more resilient to exercise than you think and almost certainly what you are experiencing is simply inflammation caused by your immune system. In other words, your body is reacting as though it got sick with a localized cold. Should you take more vitamin C? Maybe, in cases where you experience heavy inflammation things like more vitamins and electrolytes might actually be a great idea. One question you might have is whether you should not do your upcoming workout if you feel this way, you might hurt yourself further you might think and especially if your muscles are “broken down” you might think that resting for longer is the right thing to do to have this pain go away. I have some sad news; in truth you are likelier to feel less sore if you actually follow through on your workout. This is because running actually helps your body with the recovery process by helping to move the things that cause inflammation out of the way. This leads us into the conversation of active recovery very complete rest, when do you do which? Tough but interesting question! The simplest way to approach is to know whether this pain is likely to be from boring old inflammation or from actual broken tissue like muscle, cartilage, tendon or bone. On most occasions where something feels heavy and slow with a little pain you are fine to continue with your upcoming workout or to do some active recovery, on the other hand if your mind feels cloudy, thoughts and words aren’t coming together as well as they tend to or you experience sharp or twisting pain that shoots up your legs when you apply weight or pressure you should definitely take the day off. When it comes to running related pains I want you to try to give this pain a number on a scale of 0 to 100. I want you not to run again until this pain is at a 30 or less. Why a 30 and not a 0? Because active recovery tends to be considerably better for recovery than being completely passive and because your brain tends to compensate when it comes to pain – it can be a little slow, by actively moving you are able to remind your brain that in fact you aren’t as broken as it says you are.

What about yoga, foam rolling, and stretching, where do they fall into this restful mix of information? When it comes to yoga and stretching the benefits tend to be a neurological one. Although this might come as a surprise, your stretching ability has everything to do with reducing brain signalling to your muscle than it does with the actual muscles themselves. On your muscles you can find something amazing called spindle fibers and these spindle fibers are responsible for detecting the stretch in your muscles and help you get accustomed with where your body is in space. When it comes to stretching, I want you to focus on doing active stretches if you are accustomed to them prior to your running and short static stretches after your runs. If you do any body mindfulness practices, you are better served for moving your joints through a larger range of motion which also means that you have a little bit of a “leg up” on your competition.

Awesome that was a lot, here’s a quick rundown again:

· "I'll sleep when I'm dead" isn't as cool as it sounds. Even top performers like Michael Jordan took their sleep seriously. Want to train like them? You gotta have every other aspect of your life in check first.

· Hard work can have its downsides if you're not careful. So don't break yourself trying to meet unrealistic expectations. The real secret weapon? Good sleep.

· Sleep is so essential that some scientists believe being awake is just a weird tweak in evolution. While we sleep, our body gets busy pumping hormones, rebuilding tissues, and refreshing the brain. It can even boost sports performance.

· Skimping on sleep regularly? You're inviting mood disorders, potential addictions, and becoming easily irritated. Bottom line: prioritize sleep, whether after a run or just a regular day, and you'll see the benefits.

· Post-workout soreness? It's probably inflammation, not torn muscles. You might be surprised to hear that a light workout can actually speed up recovery.

· Experiencing pain or discomfort? Listen to your body. A dull, heavy feeling? You can proceed with your workout or active recovery. Sharp, shooting pain or a clouded mind? Definitely take a break.

· For running-related pain, rate it from 0 to 100. Don't get back on the track until you're at 30 or below. Because a little movement is often better than complete rest.

· What about yoga, foam rolling, stretching? These are great for helping your brain get a better understanding of your body. Moving those joints can even give you a competitive edge.