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Maximizing Recovery for the Runner: Sleep, Nutrition and Mobility

by Kathleen O'Neill, DPT

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Runners are notoriously great at one thing: running. Many runners neglect the recovery element of a marathon or half marathon training plan, which ultimately puts them at increased risk of injury. If this sounds familiar, try incorporating the following changes into your weekly routine to set yourself up for success and optimize performance during hard workouts and on race day.


Build In Down Weeks

Building down weeks into your training will ensure your muscles, tendons and bones have adequate time to recover as you progressively stress your body in pursuit of that PR. Every training program should be individualized to the runner based on running background, however many programs typically build for 3-4 weeks and then cut back for 1 week. Working with a running coach to create a tailored program can help determine the best training plan for you.


Rest and Sleep

One key element of proper recovery during a training cycle is getting adequate sleep. During deep sleep, human growth hormone (HGH) is released, which helps repair muscles after a hard workout or a long run. Inversely, sleeping fewer than 6 hours regularly can lead to increased cortisol levels, which breaks down tissues and impacts the body’s ability to secrete HGH. Additionally, sleep deprivation can impact the body’s ability to efficiently convert carbs to glycogen, which is a critical system that prevents you from “hitting the wall” during a race or workout.


Dial In Your Nutrition

As you increase your mileage, you might feel like you’re constantly hungry and able to load up on pizza, burgers and donuts - the best post long run treat! Make sure that you’re sufficiently fueling with the right balance of lean protein, good fats, slow release carbs and greens during the week and after your big workouts. This will allow for optimal muscle recovery and improve bone health as you ramp up your training. Working with a registered dietitian to create a fuel plan that’s individualized to you can help optimize your training and race day performance.


Make Time For Active Recovery

In addition to your weekly mileage and strength training, be sure to incorporate active mobility, foam rolling and stretching post run and on your “off days”. This can help address any problem areas and decrease injury risk as your mileage builds. Although your mobility routine should be personalized based on your needs, try integrating this quick mobility flow 4x/week to keep you accountable as you increase your mileage.


Recovery/Mobility Flow

Aim to cycle through this whole flow 4-5 times on each side, 4 times per week.


Reach out for more guidance on developing a customized training program that will elevate your recovery.


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