Hands down the number one reason why I truly believe that I ran my fastest 5k three weeks ago at Smiles For Sophie Forever was because of THIS.
But first I need say something.
The purpose of this article is not to over simplify my secret to a fastest 5k. There are many variables that contribute to optimal performance. Many times it just comes down to being a really good day. But the purpose of this article is to drill home a really important point about something that so many people often neglect, and underestimate big time. And it’s THIS.
But first you need to hear this story.
Back in February, we were sitting in my living room with our two friends Mark and Natalie, both elite runners. We discussed how to break my goal of an 18:15 5k (the fastest I ever ran since my high school wrestling days at 119lbs was 18:30). Was it possible? What did I need to do to do it? Could it be done in less than 12 weeks with a new training protocol? The general consensus seemed to be that it was possible, but it would be really tough to pull it off.
So I put myself to the test. You can get my actual running plan for FREE right here: #4WeeksOutPlan. My focus was to hit at least three runs each week which consisted of a short sprint day, a tempo day, and a long recovery day. Bonus was to hit another 24-30 minute slow run on a fourth day each week. Why 24 minutes? Because I’m a parent athlete and when you have kids, you can never predict the amount of time you’ll be able to squeeze in for a workout. 24 minutes just happens to be the minimum time that makes me feel complete. I would say that most weeks I was able to hit that fourth bonus run after one of our FMU workouts. *It’s important to know that outside of running workouts, I hit two bodyweight strength and conditioning workouts each week, two lifting workouts each week, and one athletic non-traditional workout each week.
Here are some other training concepts I had to practice:
- S.P.D. (Small performances daily). Hit a good volume of workload during my daily workouts but nothing crazy and over the top.
- STAY FRESH. If I don’t feel like it’s my day to do something, don’t do it. If the body says rest, we rest.
- DON’T OVER-EXERT DURING WORKOUTS. High one day, low the next. It’s one thing to keep up a challenging intensity, it’s another thing to go full throttle. I rarely go 100% anymore.
And then on top of these simple training rules, I did some other things for my pre-game ritual. In all transparency, here’s what I did for Smiles For Sophie:
- Drank a glass of red wine the night before.
- Drank a protein shake the night before.
- The morning of the race, I had a protein shake 90 minutes before the race and a handful of blueberries.
- I also had a teaspoon of beet root powder.
- I rolled out my feet and legs with a lacrosse ball and foam roller.
- I jogged for four minutes before the race to prime my heart and muscles. I tried to do more, I usually prefer eight, but then I got called over to run the group warm-up.
- I used mapmyrun during the race. This helped me break up the race into 3 minute intervals.
- Something that I usually don’t do is listen to music. But for some reason at SFSF, I put my Christian hip-hop and rock playlist on.
Could it have been a combination of all these things that helped me PR? Absolutely. But there was something else that was so different than ever before, and it was THIS.
Before I tell you I also have to tell you something extra special that happened right before the race. We did a massive group prayer before the start line. That was the first time we prayed at SFSF after the warmup. Before we gathered Emily just subtly asked, “are you going to pray?” I was like “sweet, let’s do it.” A minute before I told her I didn’t even feel up to par to run. Body felt tired. Legs felt tight. Same mind games mess me up just like everyone else. But when I prayed something obviously happened. Where three or more gather God tells you He is there. People joined hands—kids with other kids they didn’t even know. Heads bowed. And we opened up the flood gates for the Holy Spirit and immediately you could feel it in the air.
So that was definitely what I would say is the main external force that made me run faster than ever. God was ripping through my veins in full force.
But besides that, the main thing that I changed, the main contributing factor, the main component that I harnessed and buckled down to fix over the last few months to help me reach peak performance was…
Yes. After all my analyzing and processing of my fastest 5k experience, I firmly believe sleep made the biggest difference.
In March I made a major life change. I said I had to start getting adequate, quality, and plenty of sleep and rest! It’s not that I don’t go to bed early. It’s not that I don’t like to sleep. We have two kids though! And when you wake up at 4:30am most days, it’s really hard to get a desired 8 hours each night. I haven’t been at 100% since we had our first son six years ago. But luckily I brought in some awesome coaches to take some of the training load off my plate and I started sleeping again.
And that’s why if I had to switch the Apostle Paul’s words about love from 1 Corinthians 13:13 to a play on about running, it would be this: “Three things will help you run fast forever–training, nutrition, and sleep–and the greatest of these is sleep.”
That is all.
I made you read all that just to emphasize this one main point.
If you want to get serious about your results, with whatever you can do in your control, sleep more. Who knows. It may just be an absolute game-changer for you and everyone in your life.
Please excuse any typos or grammatical errors as this was typed quickly on my tablet with no desire to edit.