Recovery: Rest and Recovery in the Long Run

In the last few articles in this series, we examined one’s immediate recovery needs following a hard workout, how to execute your easy training days and how to rest properly. This week, let us examine how you can train healthy year-round by incorporating “recovery training” into your annual plan.

Take Planned Rest Periods

Let’s assume you have just had a good cycle of training, set a new half-marathon PR, and are ready to pile on more training for that 10K next month… STOP! This is a critical error many runners make in that training each year.

A top-level performance often indicates that your body has “gone to the well” and is now weaker than it was before your big race (for a short period). This is the time to REST, not PUSH HARDER. My suggestion is to jog easily the day after a big race (your goal race of a season), and then take one day off from running for every ten minutes you raced.

So, for a 10K Race run at your maximum effort (say, 40:00), you would jog 20-30min the day after, then rest for four full days. During a rest period of less than a week, I suggest a TOTAL break from exercise. No hard cycling, no laps of the pool- just relax for a few days. After that time, for this hypothetical runner, you can begin to implement some light jogging or XT for another four days. Then, begin to gradually increase your training to previous levels over the next few weeks.

For a marathoner who has just run 3:00 in a goal race (180min), this break period would last 18 days. I would suggest total rest for the first 8-10 days, then implement some light activity so you don’t lose your muscular resilience (ie- go for some long walks, enjoy a few bike rides, stretch, lift weights, or jog lightly if you are veteran runner).

This general outline will allow you a mental and physical break from hard training after a goal race, curb your enthusiasm to prevent injury, and prepare you to run even faster in your next training cycle.

Vary Your Routine

“The definition of lunacy is to do the same thing over and over and expect a different result…”

How many of you know a runner who is ALWAYS in marathon training? They run long and slow year round, and always come within a few minutes of their “normal” marathon time each spring and fall. In a local 5K, they always run slower than you expect because “they aren’t used to running that fast”. I bet you know this runner… but don’t’ let it be you!

The reason for this stagnation is pure lack of variety in their training. Therefore, I recommend breaking your year into four 8-12 week training cycles with each culminating in a different goal race. Under this methodology, you are able to work on your weaknesses and hone your strengths across the calendar year. Also, you will likely have greater motivation to train year-round because you are constantly doing new things.

The below is a hypothetical schedule for a competitive age-group runner who trains year-round. A rest period would be taken after each training season as noted above.

Spring

Goal – Race a Fast 5K-10K
Training – Shorter intervals, fast fartlek, lower mileage, shorter tempos

Summer

Goal – Compete in Your First Sprint or Olympic Distance Triathlon
Training – “Brick Sessions” where you mix swimming, biking, and running; fast tempos, long bike rides, swim intervals

Fall

Goal – Set a Marathon PR
Training – Long runs, long tempos, high mileage

Winter

Goal – Win Your First Trail Race
Training – Trail running, fast ascents, fartlek on terrain, possibly snow shoeing/XC skiing




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