Runners know the importance of training hard, running regularly and accumulating miles. These fundamentals are part of a strong foundation, yet both rest and recovery are often overlooked.
Recovery is defined as, “a return to a normal state of health, mind or strength.” And rest, “a period of inactivity, relaxation or sleep.” Your muscles and energy system need time to rebuild, adapt and prepare for your next workout. Lack of rest means starting your next run unprepared as your body may be exhausted,under-fuelled and more prone to injury.
Signs of Lack of Recovery
Without proper recovery, you may note signs of sleepiness, lack of enthusiasm and loss of interest to run as scheduled. Other symptoms are trouble sleeping, irritability, weight loss, loss of coordination and excessive aches and pains.
When to Take a Break
- Long run: There is no denying your body has been broken down after a long run. Taking a day or two off after a long run will do more good than harm.
- Hard race: Some races are training runs and others are A-races, where you push your physical limits and give your all. After these races, it is vital to allow sufficient time for recovery.
- High-mileage week: Most coaches work with a four-week block of training. After building intensity and mileage for the first three weeks, week four is a rest week.
- Season: A seasonal break can be a test of willpower. A seasonal break of one-to-four weeks completely off running can rejuvenate, replenish and recharge you for the upcoming months.
- Injury: The biggest no-brainer is time off because of injury. One week off is better than one year off because of injury.
Fitting In Recovery
Finding the time to recover is not as hard as you may think.
- Recover on the run: Scheduled easy days can be viewed as recovery, especially after hard training sessions.
- Recover after the run: Be sure to take in the needed calories and drink enough water to replenish lost energy stores. Many runners use compression socks, massage and ice baths to aid in recovery.
- Weekly recovery: If needed, take a full day off running for light cross-training or complete rest.
- Monthly recovery: A two-day rest at the end or beginning of every month will do your body good.
- Seasonal or yearly recovery: There are no rules as to how long a runner needs to rest between seasons. Most runners have found what works for them through trial and error, and learning from experiences of other runners.