Professional Runner Lydia O’Donnell Follows a (Very) Strict Bedtime Routine to Refuel Her Energy Levels
Welcome to Bedtime Stories, an interview series where we ask inspiring individuals to share their nighttime routine and sleep secrets – from the beauty products they can’t live without to the tricks they swear by when they’re too tired to function (no coffee needed).
For this instalment, marathon athlete, Nike running coach and founder of Femmi, Lydia O'Donnell, takes us through the strict bedtime routine she swears by to help restore her body and energy levels after a long day of exercise.
For some, running 5km is a huge achievement - and one you should be incredibly proud of, too. But if we had to choose professional runner Lydia O'Donnell's most impressive athletic achievement, we'd have to say running 150km in 1,363 laps around a car park while in hotel quarantine would make the top of the list. Yes, true story.
With a career as physically demanding as O'Donnell's, she knows all too well the effect that stress and burnout can have on the mind and body. At one point, her running career and wellbeing were jeopardised when she suffered from intense hormone imbalances that caused her to lose her period for months and face a severe mental health battle.
But through resilience and tenacity, she managed to overcome those hurdles through striving for health and wellbeing.
Over the years, O'Donnell has made it a mission to put her health at the forefront and focus on her body's needs.
What O'Donnell learnt was that by following a nutritious diet (where no food groups are off limits), a balanced workout schedule, and implementing a calming bedtime routine, she was able to build a healthy long-term relationship with her body that allows her to wake up energised and ready to take on any challenge, day after day.
Bed Threads Journal sat down with the inspirational runner and female health advocate, where she revealed the night and morning rituals she swears by that help her mind and body to relax and restore.
Hi Lydia! Welcome to Bedtime Stories. Can you walk us through your bedtime routine?
Sleep is so important for everyone, but especially athletes. It’s one of the best performance enhancers for athletes as it allows you to recover before the next day of training.
My bedtime is the same every night – I'm adamant about getting enough sleep. I begin to wind down at about 8.30pm. I begin my nighttime routine by looking after my skin. I cleanse, then apply multiple serums and a hyaluronic acid moisturiser. Before switching everything off, including myself, I spend 5 minutes writing in my journal, where I jot down the highlights of the day and any improvements I can work on. Once this is done, I turn off the lights and fall asleep – usually relatively quickly.
What sleep or beauty products do you swear by that you won’t go a night without?
I’m a big fan of The Ordinary. Some of their products I swear by include the Squalene Cleanser, Buffet, Hyaluronic Acid Serum 2%, Caffeine Solution 5% and Natural Moisturising Factors + HA.
What is your solution for those nights you simply can’t nod off to sleep?
It's common that during the luteal phase of the menstrual cycle, females suffer heightened anxiety, which can lead to affected sleep patterns. I have definitely been through this and it can affect my sleep severely.
In these moments I use my breath and meditation to help control my thoughts. I work through why I may be having these thoughts and feelings, and allow myself to let go of the anxiety. By using my breath as a key focal point and taking each breath deep into my diaphragm, I am able to relax more into my body, which helps me to eventually nod off.
What time does your alarm go off in the morning?
Each morning I wake between 5 and 6am depending on what running session I have for the day. I spend the first 5 minutes allowing myself to wake up fully before jumping into anything. I then head straight to the kettle to begin brewing my morning coffee and toasting a crumpet. While this is heating, I open my 5-minute journal to go through the process of gratitude and what I want to get out of the day.
Once my coffee and crumpet are ready, I will sit in silence and prepare for the training session ahead. I run every single day, with some runs being harder than others. If I have a tough run ahead, I'm usually relatively nervous and excited. I go through the motions of where I'm running, what pace I need to be hitting and how hard it should be feeling. I try not to put too much pressure on myself, but there is always a goal in mind.
Once the caffeine and fuel has been consumed, I lace up my shoes and head out the door.
What are three things (besides coffee) that help when you’re too tired to function?
This depends on what level of tired I am, but there are definitely three things that help boost my energy levels:
If I’m finding it hard to focus and find it hard to concentrate on work, I find getting up and moving, going for a walk or jog, or even doing some yoga, helps to revitalise my mood.
When I’m tired and craving sweet treats, eating something high in protein it will usually curb my cravings pretty well. Protein fills me up and allows me to stay switched on for longer.
3. A nap
When I’m completely exhausted to the point I feel emotionally and physically drained, you’ll find me napping. As an athlete, naps are a daily non-negotiable. Some days I nap for 15-20 mins and other days (in marathon training) it will be up to an hour.
What do you normally eat for breakfast to kick start your day?
I have the same breakfast every day - I will never get sick of it! It includes two pieces of wholegrain toast with Marmite, two hard boiled eggs, half an avo, a dash of olive oil and plenty of salt.