Getting ready to run the Grand Teton Relay? Finding it hard to fit all that running preparation into your regular work/family schedules? Well, you're not that much different from every other runner. It's difficult for anybody these days to find time to eat right, sleep regularly, and get mentally prepped to race.

The week before the race, however, is crucial in getting your body in the right zone to compete. Keeping that competitive physical edge razor sharp will not only improve your performance, but ensure safety. And what's the best way to sharpen that edge?

Healthy sleep.

Studies show that a maintaining a healthy sleep schedule accounts for a lot in life. That's just for a regular life—work, shopping, playing with the kids—and not one that involves running a relay from Ashton, Idaho to Jackson Hole, WY. A body with good sleep habits is able to do a lot more than one with an erratic sleep schedule.

Before that week leading up to the GT Relay, take some time and figure out if your sleep habits are up to the level you need to compete. Here's a quick, personal inventory of your sleep habits (if you're not doing these things now, make sure to do them at least the week before you run!):

  1. Are you getting up around the same time every morning? According to the New York Times, many physical trainers for professional athletes advise their clients to sleep in the hotel rooms with their windows wide open, regardless of when they got to sleep. This lets the sun in, which naturally wakes them up at the same time every day. The players “felt great both physically and mentally over the long haul.”
  2. Are you going to bed only when sleepy? Sleep scientists say that oversleeping can happen just as easily on the front end as on the back (if you have time, read this longer article on sleep habits—fascinating!).
  3. Is your body fully relaxed before getting in bed? Read a book, take a warm bath, or do other activities that can help your inner clock wind down.
  4. Have you had caffeine, alcohol, or cigarettes close to bedtime? While these substances are not part of most runners' days, these substances all have drastically negative effects on sleep, like Restless Legs Syndrome.
  5. Are you reliant on naps? Daytime sleepiness usually just means nighttime sleep is not what it needs to be. If you have to nap, make them quick (always under an hour, and shorter than a half hour if you can), and never nap after 3 p.m.
  6. Which kinds of distractions are present in your bedroom? Do not check your phone after you've committed to sleeping, even if it's your other beloved GT Relay teammates—check it in the morning. Also, leaving the TV on while you sleep has been shown to be harmful to healthy sleep cycles. The bedroom should be for sleep and comfort only.
  7. What are you eating while training and leading up to the race? A proper diet with plenty of carbs and protein is important not only for adequate sleep, but to avoid cramps or charley horses during sleep. Spasming muscles and cramps (LINK TO CRAMP BLOG) during sleep could mean you're dehydrated or you're not getting enough potassium, calcium, or magnesium. So eat a banana and drink some water! Also consider taking supplements of calcium and magnesium to relax the muscles.

As proud and supporting sponsors of the Grand Teton Relay, Eastern Idaho Regional Medical Center will be there to cheer you on. Our Idaho Falls hospital encourages you to get as much quality sleep as you can leading up to the race, since you will be sleeping in a van with a lot of other sweaty people! So remember, eat, SLEEP, run—it's the Grand Teton Relay!