IN THE REHAB ZONE

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Running at Sunset

Ask the Running Doc: Does Daylight Saving Time Affect Running Performance?

Sunday is the start of Daylight Saving Time, when most of America pushes its clocks forward an hour in order to take advantage of more waking hours of light (Arizona and Hawaii being exceptions to this ritual).

Many people say they experience a feeling that their body’s “internal clock” is off when they lose an hour of sleep but wake up at their usual time. So the question has been asked: Does Daylight Saving Time affect running performance?

And the answer is: NO!! Next question.

OK, let’s go into a little more detail.  Studies have been performed to measure the effects of sleep deprivation and/or sleep deficiency on performance.  Sleep deprivation is a condition that occurs when a person doesn’t get enough sleep while sleep deficiency is a broader concept that involves sleeping at the wrong times, not being able to go to sleep, or not sleeping well.

Both conditions are diagnosed over time and are based on a pattern of improper sleep.

With respects to Daylight Saving Time, we are essentially discussing whether one night of sleep may affect an athlete adversely, due to the time change.

The research doesn’t conclusively show any changes to strength or performance in athletes participating in team sports or individual sports.

There was one slight exception and it does involve runners

Runners can experience a “condition” known as Central Fatigue or Central Nervous System Fatigue as the result of a bad night’s sleep.

In plain English, Central Fatigue means, if you believe you are going to be negatively affected by the lack of sleep or the perceived lack of sleep, then you will be affected.

Essentially, endurance athletes spend a lot of time in their own heads. After all, spending time in your own head is one of the benefits of running. But if your thoughts are negative, then those thoughts will affect you negatively.

The study demonstrated this point by observing athletes in team sports. The conclusion was that athletes in team sports are, by the nature of the sport, too preoccupied by other things to be affected by a perceived lack of sleep.  For example, the running back playing football is more concerned about the linebacker trying to tear his head off than by whether or not he slept well the night before.

So, as in everything related to long-distance running, don’t psych yourself out. Enjoy Daylight Saving Time and enjoy your run.

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