Countdown to the Dubai Marathon 2018: why sleep is a crucial part of training

Rest for seven to nine hours every night, so you are fully prepared for the big day, says Lee Ryan

Wow, where have the last eight weeks gone? What a journey it has been; we have experienced a lot of ups and downs by this stage in training. To be honest, this might be something you don't want to hear, but here goes: it is too late to stress about what you missed, what you didn't do, what you should have done. We need to make the best of the strength gains we have built over the last few months.

You will notice on our training plan, and most others, that the volume of kilometres and sessions have started to decrease. Don't worry, this is something that needs to happen, it is called the "taper" phase of training and it is a crucial part of the

plan. A famous quote I like to live by is: “If you want to train like a pro, you have to recover like a pro”.

So, in the past few weeks you would have been at the peak of your training volume, intensity and mileage. You would have completed your longest individual runs, hitting milestones in the mental prep for the big day. Now, everything slows down and the details really matter to make sure you get to the start line as strong as possible. We need to trust the process in the last few weeks; we don't need to be running to try to "get the advantage". This will not work.

At this stage, we need to make sure we increase sleep time, confirm the race strategy, check the route, and plan with friends and family. Make sure you're hydrating plenty and eating strong, healthy, balanced foods that are key to rebuilding the body and charging the immune system. I have trained many people and every time the same issues arise at this point in training, and I always say the same thing: "The only thing I would do more of in the last few weeks to race day, is sleep." Not sleeping enough or not sleeping well is not okay. Lack of sleep can have some major negative consequences on your health.

Along with the benefits of drinking enough water, getting an adequate amount of sleep is a constantly overlooked aspect of promoting a healthy lifestyle. Focusing on trying to get seven to nine hours of sleep per night is key to allowing yourself to rest well enough to allow your body to go into REM sleep, which is the deep sleep mode where your body gets the most recovery. This is what we really need at this stage.

There are three phases of non-REM sleep. Each stage can last from five to 15 minutes. You go through all three phases before reaching REM sleep.

Stage 1: You close your eyes, but it's easy to wake you up. This phase may last for five to 10 minutes.

Stage 2: You fall into a light sleep. Your heart rate slows and your body temperature drops. Your body is getting ready for deep sleep.

Stage 3: This is the deep sleep stage and the most important, particularly when you're training like this. It's harder to rouse you during this stage, and if someone woke you up, you would feel disoriented and confused for a few minutes.

During the deep stages of REM sleep, the body repairs and regrows tissues, builds bone and muscle, and strengthens the immune system. It is ideal to get as much of this sleep as possible at this stage in your routine, so make sure sleep is one of your priorities.

Usually, you go into REM sleep 90 minutes after you fall asleep. However, in this day and age, it is a phase not many people get to, and often you have your phone next to you at all times. Turn your screens off 20 minutes before bed. 

Rest is key. It's not about being lazy, it's about listening to the body, trusting the process and getting ready.

Lee Ryan is the captain of Adidas Runner Dubai, a professional athlete, record-breaking endurance runner, and also a personal trainer, working with the likes of Arsenal F C. Not only has he set four Guinness World Records, he’s a keen marathon runner – his fastest time being an indomitable two hours and 58 minutes, set at the Berlin Marathon in September


Do you have a question for Lee about the Dubai Marathon? Send it to for Lee to answer in the next instalment.


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