Dothan Spine & Specialty 
100 Year Lifestyle Chiropractor in Dothan, AL

Improving Marathon Performance

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Marathons are on the rise and people are striving to improve their marathon performance. If this is you or you know someone who is into extreme sports, you will love the book Born to Run by Christopher McDougall.

Flying through the book because I couldn’t put it down and talking with a good friend and fellow 100 Year Lifestyle Chiropractor, Dr. Dan Traxler of Connect First Family Chiropractic in Sterling, VA, has inspired me to challenge myself with running longer distances. I recently signed up for the St. George Marathon in October. This being my first marathon, I’ve been constantly researching everything I can about how to improve my performance and decrease my chances of injury. So far, I’ve come up with two things, and I believe they are the most important two things anyone training for a marathon, ultramarathon, iron man, etc. should consider; sleep and chiropractic care.

We all know sleep is important, whether we’re training hard or just doing our normal routine, but I think we fail to realize just how important sleep actually is for athletic performance. Studies have shown an increase in sprinting speed by 9% among basketball players who slept two extra hours each night. Their shooting accuracy also improved.1 Imagine carrying these benefits over to running and how your time will improve! It might be difficult to get an extra two hours of sleep every night while you’re training, but even increasing your sleep the week leading up to the event can boost your race-day performance.

A reduction of time spent sleeping reduces your reaction time, regardless of what sport you play or participate in. Just one night without sleep can reduce reaction times by up to 300%.2 If you’re training for a race and you’re also a student studying hard for finals, a CEO running a company, or a mom just trying to keep up with daily life, make sure you’re getting at least eight hours of sleep each night to keep your reaction times on point.

You might think the strongest predictor of sports injuries would be how many hours you practice, and you’d be in the majority. However, studies have shown that sleep is actually the biggest predictor of injuries.3 Without adequate sleep, your body doesn’t have enough time to regenerate cells needed to heal and protect your body. Without adequate sleep, your reaction times are slower, as previously discussed, so you can’t stop an injury as it’s about to occur. Make sure you’re getting enough sleep to keep you healthy and off the sidelines as you train.

Another benefit of getting enough sleep is improved growth hormone regulation. Growth hormone is vital to sustaining athletic performance as it aids in muscle repair, muscle building, and bone growth. Almost 75% of growth hormone is released during sleep.4 Getting a regular seven to nine hours of sleep each night guarantees the production of growth hormone and your ability to recover so you can keep up with your training schedule.

Sleep is something most people understand when it comes to athletic performance. Something that not many people understand is how chiropractic care can help athletic performance. Chiropractic adjustments balance the body while also enhancing the function of the nervous system, the master control system of the body. The nervous system controls everything; the thoughts we think, our hearts beating, digestion of our food, breathing and muscle contraction. Studies have shown that after a single adjustment, athletes had stronger muscle contractions measured by EMG technology.5 By maintaining a healthy nervous system as a part of a healthy lifestyle, your muscles will be bigger, faster and stronger. Imagine how having faster and stronger muscles will improve your athletic performance!

There you have it. If you’re looking to increase marathon performance, or any other athletic activity, adequate amounts of sleep and chiropractic care are two things you can implement immediately. To find a provider near you, click here. Good luck on your training endeavors!

  1. Mah, C., Mah, K., Kezirian, E., & Dement, W. (2011). The Effects of Sleep Extension on the Athletic Performance of Collegiate Basketball Players. SLEEP, 34(7), 943-950.
  2. 5 Areas Sleep Has The Greatest Impact on Athletic Performance. (2015, September 23). Fatigue Science.
  3. Milewski, M., Skaggs, D., Bishop, G., Ibrahim, D., Wren, T., & Barzdukas, A. (2014). Chronic lack of sleep is associated with increased sports injuries in adolescent athletes. Jouranl of Pediatric Orthopedics, 34(2), 129-133.
  4. Sleep and Human Growth Hormone. (2019, May 8).
  5. Keller, T.S., & Colloca, C.J. (2000). Mechanical force spinal manipulation increases trunk muscle strength assessed by electromyography: A comparative clinical trial. Journal of Manipulative and Physiological Therapeutics, 23(9), 585-595.
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