How to have the perfect runner’s day, according to science

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6am: Start early

Trying to lose a few pounds? Set your alarm. A run before breakfast (when you are in a fasted state) appears to encourage your body to burn more fat, according to research published in the Journal of Physiology.

6:05am: Drink up

When you exhale, your body releases water vapor. During the day you drink to stay hydrated; at night, you don’t. Sports nutritionist Pamela Nisevich Bede recommends drinking fluids soon after you wake up.

6:15am: Get rolling

Do 10 minutes of foam rolling each morning. ‘It releases tight muscles and activates weaker muscles, which will help your body move more efiiciently during the day, setting you up for a stronger run,’ says physiotherapist David Reavy. If you run after work, counteract the day’s sitting by using the foam roller again before you hit the road.

6:30am: Lift light

Starting your day with strength training could pay off if you run in the afternoon or evening. Research in the Journal of Science and Medicine in Sport found that athletes who lifted weights in the morning had faster sprint times later in the day. But don’t overdo it; you’ll be too tired to run.

7am: Refuel

Within 30-60 minutes of finishing your run or strength session, rehydrate and eat a meal or snack containing a 2:1 to 4:1 ratio of carbs to protein, says Bede. Carbs replenish glycogen and boost energy, while protein helps muscles to rebuild and recover.

9:30am: Get a move on

If you work at a desk, get up and walk around the office during the day. There’s plenty of evidence showing that prolonged sitting can damage your health. And if you’re a runner, spending too much time on your backside can tighten your hips and deactivate your glutes, increasing your risk of injury, says Reavy.

10:30am: Fill your tank

Running on an empty stomach is fine for a short morning run. But if you’re going long or later in the day, eat a carb-heavy snack two to three hours before you run. Bede recommends 200-400kcals, but nothing with more than 10g of fat and/or 7g of fibre to avoid mid-run stomach issues.

12 midday: Loosen up

If you’re heading out for a lunch run after hours of inactivity, take a few minutes to get your body ready. Reavy recommends a dynamic warm-up (following foam rolling, if you have the time), with moves that activate your muscles and mimic a running motion, such as high knees and bum kicks.

3pm: Nap time

This is a long shot, but runners should try to fit in a 30-minute nap. It’ll mean improved alertness, reaction time and sprinting speed, according to research in the Journal of Sports Sciences. ‘A short power nap can boost performance for hours,’ says Cheri Mah, a researcher at the Sleep Disorders Clinic and Research Laboratory at Stanford University, US.

3:30pm: Get the buzz

No siesta? Try coffee to avoid the afternoon slump. Caffeine can boost your energy, setting you up for a better evening run. A University of Birmingham study found cyclists performed 4.9 per cent better in a time trial after drinking a caffeinated drink an hour before riding, compared with when they drank decaf.

5pm: Hit the track

If intervals are in your diary, try to hit the track in the evening. Researchers in Tunisia found that athletes sprinted faster at 5pm than at 7am. The theory is that your muscles are more flexible and your lungs perform more efficiently later in the day.

6pm: Chill out

Finished your run with achy muscles or joints? If there’s no swelling, the chances are you’re simply sore. But if the tender area is inflamed, Reavy recommends icing it for 15-20 minutes immediately after your run to ease the pain and reduce swelling.

7pm: Rub it out

Researchers at Ohio State University, US, found that massage reduces swelling and accelerates the return of strength after exercise, and this effect is greatest if you have the massage soon after your workout, rather than a day or two later.

10pm: Hit the hay

If you’re aiming for a PB tomorrow, go to bed earlier than normal. According to a study from Stanford University, US, getting more sleep than usual – as much as 10 hours a night – improves runners’ times. Now, sleep, rise and repeat.