Mike Wardian's Recovery Secrets

Professional runner Mike Wardian finishing a race

tips from a busy elite ultramarathoner

For elite athletes, quick recovery between races is critical for success. But for elite marathoner and ultramarathoner Michael Wardian—who juggles his professional running career with a full-time job as an international ship broker, and an even fuller-time job as a dad to two sons, ages 11 and 9—recovery takes on a whole new meaning.

In addition to his long list of podium finishes, Wardian has become known for running very far, very fast, very often. His world records include the fastest time for seven marathons on seven continents in seven days, and the fastest ever time for all the Abbott World Marathon Majors (that’s the Tokyo Marathon, Boston Marathon, London Marathon, Berlin Marathon, Chicago Marathon, and New York Marathon). He ran them all in an average time of 2:31:09.

With a track record like that, we had to know how he does it. So, we asked:

Professional runner Mike Wardian finishing a race

What’s your regular pre-run routine?

I don't really have pre-run moves. I just start running slow and work up to my pace. If I am doing a workout or a race, I warm up, then perform some dynamic leg swings, and pickups. But for regular runs, I just head out the door and start running.

Are there any moves you do immediately after your run to facilitate recovery?
After a run, I try to spend a few minutes doing some quick and simple stretches. It’s nothing too crazy. My routine includes toe touches and leg swings. Last year, one of my big goals was to be able to touch my toes easily. It’s still not easy, but it’s finally possible. I want to expand that and keep lengthening my muscle fibers and increasing my flexibility.

What role do nutrition and hydration play in recovery?

I think nutrition and hydration are crucial to recovery. I try to eat lots of fruits, veggies, healthy fats, grains, and protein to replace the calories I burn exercising. I also drink copious amounts of water daily.

What is your go-to recovery food & drink after a run?

I have a few items that I tend to grab post run. I almost always have some fruit, like bananas, blackberries, raspberries, blueberries with almond butter and honey. For drinks, I tend to stick with water. Occasionally after a long or particularly hard run, I’ll make freshly-squeezed juice.

What role does sleep play in recovery?

Sleeping is powerful for recovery, and I don't get enough of it. So, I have been mindful of trying to sleep more lately by using an app called Sleeprate. Still, if I wake up and I am ready to go then I don't worry if it is not the ‘recommended’ amount.

Do you get massages on a regular basis? If so how often and what benefits does it deliver?

I do get a massage on a weekly basis when I am home. Massage allows some dedicated time to focus on a particular niggle before it becomes a significant problem. I also think massage can make you a tougher athlete. I find a great sports massage can knock the wind out of you and increase your pain tolerance.

What role does emotional and mental stress play in recovery?

We all have stress in our lives that's not beneficial for recovery. But I also think we all have to learn to manage it. So, I don't stress about stress, I just deal and let it go. The nice thing about running is that, for me, it is an amazing stress reliever, so that helps too.

How do you manage recovery when you are often going straight from race or a run to either work or getting on a plane, etc. when you don’t have time to go through your regular, ideal routine?

I think it’s key to move a lot after a race. I don't have a set post-race routine, but I do like to walk or lightly jog, and do some squats and leg swings because I can do them anywhere. When I stand up on a plane to stretch and squat, I usually inspire someone else to get up and move, too. I love that!

Any other tips you'd recommend to runners?

One of the best things that I have been able to do and continue to try and do is to keep all my training as invisible as possible. That means I take advantage of time I’m already spending away from my family to train as efficiently as possible—I use it to run, stretch, and recover.

Also, running is a super simple sport. So, I try to keep that in mind. If I ever get too wrapped up in something, I try to remind myself that all I really need is a pair of shoes and a great attitude. With that, anything is possible. At the end of the day, it’s all about wanting to do your best and getting out the door. Everything else is gravy.

To learn more about Michael Wardian, click here.

By Jen Van Allen. Jen has spent the past six years working as Special Projects Editor for Runner's World magazine, and writing stories for the magazine. She also has a book, The Runner's World Training Journal for Beginners, and contributes stories to The Portland Press Herald.