Limited potential?


So I am back at it.  Third shift.  10pm-6am.  My daytime sleep has been only ok so far and I am afraid the old woes my body feels when I work this shift are creeping back in.  Here is my physical effects breakdown:

1) Weight:  Start weight for this rotation (12 weeks) is 128 lbs.  I typically creep up a few pounds, have trouble with IBS (have got to start greens powder again) and deal with bloating.  Sweet.

2) Eating pattern:  I have almost mastered this one.  I start my “day” around 4pm with a protein packed breakfast.  Lately this has been farm fresh eggs, turkey bacon and fruit (fresh pineapple this week).  I have my next “meal” (very light dinner) around 8pm with husband and then my third meal between 1:00Am-3:00AM.  I incorporate protein into every meal, snack on fruit, cheese, whole grains in between and lay off the coffee best I can.  I have been better about integrating decaf (thanks to the new Kuerig!)  I am no longer starving all night, something I have battled with for 13 years.

3) Sleep: I do my best to get to bed by 7:30AM and sleep eight hours.  Have not gotten 8 hours since Sunday into Monday this week prior to starting my 3rd shift rotation.  Fail.

4) Exercise:  I had a fantastic run on Sunday in Northwood.  Best run so far this year.  I went to crossfit Tuesday (holy heat, holy workout, holy almost threw up) and had a 3.5 mile trail race on Wednesday night.  My breathing was a mess during this run… maybe it had to do with the 80% humidity at race time?  Or third shift?   I want to do more, but I am out of hours in the day/night.  I want to try running in the AM after shift sometime soon.

All this being said, I got to wondering about my athletic potential on third shift.  I think like many other things, it is going to naturally suffer.  Fighting circadian rhythms isn’t good for the body to begin with.  Follow that up with fatigue and change in sleep patterns, I think I am just doomed.  That means for 6 months out of the year, I lose training ground no matter what I do.  Six months represents the rough amount of time we spend on overnights and late nights (getting out at 1:00AM or later).  I have seven years left in this role if I stay in traditional patrol shifts.  That  may make the difference in me ever reaching my goal of being an ultra runner before age 40.   That goal may have to wait simply to keep me healthy enough to train.  The good news is many runners do spectacular in ultras after age 40.

Just another late night revelation to contend with.

Is my overall athletic potential limited by shift work?
I think the simple answer is hell yes. 

How can it not be?  All training plans consistent of getting ” a good night’s sleep” and completing scheduled runs.  My work schedule kills both of those primary goals.  The fact that I can do what I do on the limited amount of dayshifts I get is actually unbelievable to me.

It’s just the harsh reality of doing what I do.  Here is what I am doing to help my health along during third shifts:

– Just ordered  a bright light “box” at the suggestion of my doctor.  She wants me to use right after waking up for 30 minutes and again around 1:00AM to shut down melatonin production and help me get through my shift.

– Back to using REM caps by Hammer to assist in getting 8 hours.

– Reducing caffeine intake after midnight to none if possible.  If I am struggling, I have one K cup by 4:00AM.

– Sleep mask: LOVE THIS THING!  I have been using one for about 2 years and it helps me sleep deeper and tricks my body into thinking it is dark.

– Never go to bed hungry.

– Long runs on second day off only (full nights sleep the night before)

– Slow down regular runs to make heart rate and breathing a priority (harder to control when I work 3rd)

– Lower expectations and continue to just enjoy the runs and workouts!


Stay tuned to see how well I do in the next three months….


2 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Ja @Ja on the RUN
    Jun 27, 2013 @ 18:25:40

    I have a friend who starts his work at 4pm til 6am the following day. He does his workouts before work, like he’ll wake up at around 2pm goes the gym or run. 🙂 He was training for Full Ironman that time but he made it through. 🙂

    Goodluck! 🙂


  2. runningwithsam
    Jun 27, 2013 @ 23:17:21

    I am in sheer amazement of your running after reading all that gets thrown off with night shifts!


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