In our Sleeping With… series, we ask people from different career paths, backgrounds, and stages of life how they make sleep magic happen.
Athing Mu has the running resume that many top athletes work their whole careers to achieve—and Mu has accomplished all of it while barely out of her teens. The 20-year-old’s rise to the top of the running world has been nothing short of meteoric.
In 2021, the former Texas A&M standout catapulted to fame when she shattered several collegiate running records, turned pro as a college freshman, broke the US record, and became the first American in 53 years to win Olympic gold in the women’s 800 meters (roughly half a mile). Despite a 2022 season shortened by a bout of COVID-19, Mu still managed to run a world-leading time of 1:57.01 in her marquee event last month. To put that another way, a brisk walking pace would be around 4mph. Mu won her race running at around 15mph.
Since the Tokyo Olympics, the middle-distance star has been adjusting to a new career as a pro runner and the challenges that come with it, including increased pressure and media attention. To help handle these new challenges, Mu has sought to do things her way by maintaining a routine that works best for her: surrounding herself with an empowering support system that includes her sports psychologist, coach, trainer, and boyfriend; and simplifying the process by focusing on each competition one at a time.
“I’m not trying to do anything beyond myself,” she tells SELF. “I’m just going to be the athlete that I have been the past year and some change.”
As committed as she is to running fast, Mu takes her recovery and bedtime routine just as seriously. Like so many athletes, she also believes proper sleep, relaxation, and downtime is vital to her success on and off the track. Crafting a routine that fosters all of that is still relatively new: Mu says she couldn’t really prioritize everything she needed as an athlete during her high school days, when she lived with her family as one of six siblings.
“I didn’t have time to be myself; we were always together,” she says. “Now having my own space, I can choose what I want to do, and that’s probably why my routine has shifted.”
In fact, when SELF caught up with her, Mu was focusing on the recovery aspect of her routine back home in College Station, Texas, after successfully defending her national title in the 800 meters at the recent USA Track and Field Outdoor Championships in Eugene, Oregon last month.
Still, Mu doesn’t have much down time: She is scheduled to compete again on July 21 in the first round of the 800 meters at the World Athletics Championships (also in Eugene)—where she’s going for gold once again on the global stage.
A few days before she flew back to Oregon to begin Worlds competition, Mu told SELF how her bedtime routine helps her unwind from tough training sessions and gear up for history-making performances on the track.
Before I even start my routine, I take my dog through his.
Taking care of my pug, Bentley—he just turned 1—comes before my routine begins: I take him through his routine before I start preparing for bed. Bentley and I go on a little walk and then I get him his dinner.
Most of the time when I’m getting ready for bed, I’m exhausted from training.
I start getting ready for bed around 9:00 P.M. First things first, I take a shower. I usually use Dove Deep Moisture as my body wash, but when I need to get some really good sleep or I need to recover from practice, I’ll swap that with Dr. Teal’s Body Wash with Pure Epsom Salt, Sleep Blend with Melatonin. It’s so great—it will make me so tired.
After I shower, I start my skin-care and teeth-cleaning routine.
I use CeraVe Foaming Facial Cleanser to wash my face, and afterward, I use CeraVe PM Facial Moisturizing Lotion for nighttime. Then I brush my teeth with Sensodyne because I have sensitive teeth and gums and that helps a little bit. I floss and use Listerine Antiseptic Mouthwash Cool Mint.