Posted by: Joe English | June 29, 2007

Training: Should I nap when I’m training hard?

Ah, I love naps. Naps are one of my favorite things in the world. I enjoy them for two reasons: first, because I love my bed and second, because they make me feel better. People are always asking me if they should include napping as a part of their training routine.

If you can: yes, absolutely.

Sleep is a critical part of your training. Actually, it’s what happens while you sleep that’s critical. When you’re sleeping, your body is doing all kinds of work to repair damage and respond to the loads that you’ve been putting on it. It’s a time when your body can recover and not do anything else. It’s not busy eating, walking, toe tapping, thinking. It’s just sleeping and recovering.

With that in mind, people that don’t sleep, have a difficult time recovering from their workouts. And people that over-train, often have difficulty sleeping. So this can be a real death cycle. We’ll often find that if someone is not sleeping well and we get them to back-off the intensity of their workouts they BOTH sleep better AND recover better in their workouts.

But back to naps. Naps are a great way to give the body an extra chance to recover between workouts. They are most important for people that are doing a lot of very intense training or working out multiple times per day. Runners that do a track workout in the morning and run again in the evening for instance, or triathletes that workout in multiple sports per day, will benefit from a brief nap between those workouts.

I’ll give you an example from one of my elite athletes. Her regime works something like this in a typical day:
Eat and rest or nap
Eat and nap
Eat then sleep

The sleep between the workouts helps calm and recover the body, before working out again.

Now the above schedule is (as I said) is something that an elite athlete might do. Her job is to train and she has the time to devote to training, eating and sleeping for the benefit of her job. The typical person won’t have this kind of time, so you will always have to balance how much you can do in a particular day without over-training.

Bottom line: if you’re training hard, and have the time, work a short nap in during the afternoons. You’ll recover better and it will help you feel better during your workouts. Keep the naps short however (20-30 minutes) as you don’t want to interfere with your normal over-night sleep cycle.

Running Wild with Coach Joe – a blog focused on marathon racing, training and motivation. Bookmark us at or use your favorite RSS feed reader to get the latest news and articles. Running Wild is also available on Yahoo! 360 and My Space.


  1. After a long run, or a race, I can’t help but take a nap a few hours later. Glad to read that I’m not crazy.

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