Training Hard? Don’t Skimp on Sleep

Sean asks: I work 12-hour night shifts with a one-hour commute each way, which brings my total daily work hours to 14. I’m training for a marathon, and I’m worried about fitting in my runs. I’m wondering if I could cut out a little sleep to fit in training runs before I go to work? Or if it’s better to run after work, even though I’m usually tired then.


With your 14-hour commitment to work and commuting, you are not left with much clock time for running and sleeping. And sleep is critical for your health, job performance, and training.

You should run when it feels best to you, and if that’s before work, that’s fine. You’ll need to get up earlier, and that means you’ll need to go to bed earlier, too. You should strive for seven to nine hours of sleep (individual sleep needs vary, but that’s the recommended range, especially for someone who is training for a marathon).

I am going to assume you work four 12-hour days a week and have three days free that gives you some time for longer runs and catch up sleep. Schedule your shorter 30- to 60-minute runs (which can include hard speed workouts as well as easy paced runs) and rest days on your work days. Do your longer runs on non-work days, and try to also catch up on sleep on those days. There used to be a belief that you couldn’t catch up on lost sleep. But recent research has shown that getting extra sleep time when you can is helpful.

Another strategy would be to run at your work site before driving home. You might have more energy to run if you do it before commuting.


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