Rest and recovery for runners How sleep can help peak marathon performance

Rest and recoveryThe quantity - and quality - of sleep you get is crucial to a runner's performance.

Whether you're a beginner or an experienced competitor, you're asking your body to continually adapt and respond to your training. Sleep is the naturally recurring state where growth and rejuvenation of the whole body is accentuated.

There is a reason that top sports coaches ensure their athletes focus on rest during their training programmes. Put simply, the more high-quality sleep you get, the better your body will recover.

3 top tips to get a good night's sleep

If you're training after work, it will take time for your body to reach a restful state. You'll be tired but the chemical reaction caused by exercise means that you won't be able to hit the pillow and sleep immediately. Your body needs to wind down gradually.

1. Calm environment

It sounds obvious, but a calm, restful environment is essential for quality sleep. Invest in a blackout blind to produce the darkness that stimulates sleep hormones. Avoid energy drinks or caffeine after your run. And stay off your smartphone for 45 minutes before you go to sleep. This is the time for your brain to relax. An overload of information and artifical light won't help you reach a restful state.

2. Eat early, snack late

Timing your meals is very important, especially if you’re training after work. You want to go into your evening session well-fuelled after the working day. Ideally, you should eat a carbohydrate-heavy meal at lunchtime and then a top-up healthy snack late in the afternoon. Aim to eat 45 mins after your session so you allow 1 – 2 hrs before hitting the sack. If you struggle to eat after an evening session before bedtime, try to approach the evening session differently. Eat a small meal late afternoon (2 – 3 hrs before you run) and then a healthy snack after your session to refuel before you go to bed.

3. Avoid heavy, fatty foods

To refuel from your evening run, you need digestible, nutritious meal. Avoid heavy meals over-loaded with fatty foods as these take time to digest and will leave you bloated and uncomfortable. An ideal post-training evening meal could be a chicken/tuna salad with high-quality carbohydrates such as sweet potatoes, new potatoes, buckwheat, couscous or quinoa.

Quick tip: core strength for runners

A strong core is essential for all marathon runners. Our expert running coaches, Full Potential, pick their top 5 exercises to develop serious core strength and boost your performance.

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