‘I’m a Cardiologist and Marathon Runner, and This Is My Best Recovery Advice’

Photo: Getty Images/ skynesher
Cardiologist John Higgins, MD, first felt the desire to run a marathon when he was living Boston (home of one of the most iconic—and exclusive—26.2 courses around). "Initially, I thought it was too long—but after [other runners] told me about how to gradually build up the miles, I was inspired," he says. In his day job as a sports cardiologist with McGovern Medical School at UTHealth Houston, Dr. Higgins prides himself in leading—or running—his operation by example. And that's just as true when it comes to offering marathon recovery advice.

First off, Dr. Higgins takes his R&R time as seriously as his high-mileage weeks. "I enjoy light jogs—between two to four miles—as well as intervals, like running 20 steps at full pace then walking 40 steps," he says. In other words, he dials the mileage and speed down to give his body ample time to bounce back, while still reaping the rewards of jogging—like increasing endurance, improving sleep, boosting mood, and (of course!) improving the health of your heart.

Experts In This Article
  • John Higgins, MD, sports cardiologist with McGovern Medical School at UTHealth

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In between his off season jogging and occasionally playing tennis with his daughter, Dr. Higgins also makes time each day for strength training—specifically, push-ups and sit-ups. Both moves help build core strength for running. This is a key to optimal efficiency, according to Nike running coach, Bec Wilcock, who previously told Well+Good: “If you have full mobility to get the leg behind you and you have excellent core control, the glute max will be able to perform its chief function,” she said. This, in turn, will help your trunk maintain its upright position so you can propel yourself forward with ease.

Last, but certainly not least, Dr. Higgins makes plenty of time for rest in his down time. "Sleep is so important for recovery—I try to average eight hours a night," he says. Catching quality zzzs allows the body to heal the tiny micro-tears your muscles sustain during regular bouts of exercise. Allowing your body the time to stitch itself back together actually helps you come back stronger—so take Dr. Higgin's advice and enjoy your leisure hours. Marathon season will be back before you know it.

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