Everyone wants to get faster as a runner. One of my favorite aspects of running is that you’re not always racing against other people, but often racing against yourself. Racing against your previous best time, your previous longest run, or trying to run negative splits; the possibilities are endless for how you can compete against yourself. That is what makes running the best sport ever; no matter if you’re in the front of a race, the back, or somewhere in the middle, you can still win by running a new personal best time or accomplishing that goal.
But when we stop seeing that improvement or are seeking to get faster what do we do? We start running harder by doing track workouts, we start to run longer, and we start to more throughout the week. These are all great things to do, but there is one often neglected area….REST.
Rest is beneficial as it allows the body to recover from a tough workout, tough training cycle, or an injury. As much physical benefits that we get from rest, it also provides a mental break from running. Within distance running, there are two times to add rest in that are extremely beneficial to distance runners: 1) regular recovery/rest days during the week and 2) planned running breaks.
Regular Recovery/Rest Days
I’ll be the first to admit that I hate streak running. While it can be fun to say, “I’ve run every day for the past three years”, it’s not giving your body the proper rest from the physical pounding of running. Every runner is going to be different for what type of recovery/rest days you need to take. One runner may need to take one day off per week, another one per month, and another one every two months. Looking at your injury history and how beat up your body is, can help you determine how often you should take days off. It’s important to listen to your body.
Another part of recovery days, is taking a run at recovery pace. This pace is as slow as you need it to be. If you normally run 9 minute miles for your easy runs, this can be an 11 minute pace for the entire run. I tell my athletes to not wear a watch and run on only feel. The important thing is that you are getting out there and getting the body moving at a very easy pace. The worst thing that you can do on a recovery day is run too fast.
Planned Running Breaks
Planned running breaks occur after a training cycle when you don’t have any races on the calendar for an extended period of time. The goal of a planned running break is to give your body time to recover from the physical pounding and mental fatigue that comes from consistent endurance running. After any training cycle, I recommend taking at least three down weeks. These down weeks can be completely off, involve light running, or be a great time to try something new (i.e. swimming, biking, roller blading, etc…). You can also use a combination of the three during your downtime.
Training is tough. It’s tough on you physically and mentally, so using the rest/recovery tips, should help to keep you fresh and ready to keep training!
Grant Watley is a veteran high school and collegiate running coach and co-owner of the 605 Running Company. He received his Masters of Sport Science in Sports Coaching from the United States Sports Academy in 2011 and graduated in 2009 from Nebraska Wesleyan University with a degree in Health and Fitness Studies and a minor in coaching. His contributions to the 605 Running Company Blog will appear periodically focusing on training and nutrition.