Runners World Articles: Archives
To run better, sometimes you shouldn't run at all. We'll tell
There are many ingredients in a successful running program: long
runs, speedwork, consistent weekly mileage. But the key ingredient
doesn't even involve running. It involves resting.
That's because when we run, we tear down our bodies-our muscles
are taxed, tendons and ligaments are strained, and energy sources
are drained. But thanks to the human body's ingenious design, we're
programmed to rebuild from all this stress and become even stronger,
as long as we make sure we get sufficient rest between our workouts.
Without rest, the body can't rebuild. The result: lingering fatigue,
chronic injury, and mediocre running.
Golden Rules of Rest
By listening to your body and adhering to the following three rules
of rest, you'll gain fresher legs, a lower risk of injury, and the
ability to run farther and faster more easily.
- Rest before you feel exhausted. If you don't take a little rest
before you become fatigued, you'll need a lot more time to recover
later. So be sure to schedule regular rest day, walk breaks, and
rest weeks into your training routine. (See "Rest Made Easy"
for a discussion of these types of rest.)
- When in doubt, add more rest. Giving yourself a little extra
rest is particularly important if you're doing long runs, speedwork,
or racing regularly.
- Beware of ≥easy≤ mile. A leisurely 3-miler is not a rest day.
Easy miles that you run just for the sake of bumping up your mileage
prevent your legs from fully recovering. True rest days are nonrunning
Rest Made Easy
There are lots of ways to work rest into our running routine on
a daily, weekly, monthly, and even yearly basis. For best success,
experiment with all the following forms of rest until you come up
with a running/resting ratio that's right for you.
Rest "discounts" during a run. Just because you
tell your friends you're "going out for a run" doesn't
mean you have to run every step of the way. By taking walk breaks
every mile or so, particularly on long runs, you push back fatigue,
yet still build endurance based on the distance you cover. For example,
a 10-mile run done with walk breaks will leave most runners feeling
as if they've run 5 to 6 miles, yet their bodies still benefit from
the 10-mile distance.
Days off from running. Taking an extra day off from running-before
you need it-will allow your muscles to recover significantly faster
from your challenging runs. You can still run the same number of
miles per week simply by increasing the number of miles you cover
on the days when you do run. And, at the first sign of lingering
fatigue, switch to an every-other day running program until the
Easy training weeks. Many runners get stuck in a mileage
rut, averaging the same distance week after week. Once a month,
reduce your mileage for 1 week by about a third. Think of this monthly
rest break as an insurance policy for fresh legs. Your training
journal is a great tool for keeping track of these types of "big
picture" rest breaks.
Once-a-year breaks. To stay rested and healthy during every
running year, it helps to have a clear beginning and end to each
12-month period. So pick a month each year when you'll decrease
your overall mileage by 50 percent. Go ahead and incorporate lots
of your favorite (and perhaps seasonal) cross-training activities
during this month. They'll keep you fit and active. By the end of
this month, your partial ≥vacation≤ from running will leave you
refreshed and raring to start your next year of running.
Rest By the Numbers
One of the best things about running is that it's an activity we
can do for a lifetime. But as we get older, rest becomes more necessary.
To allow for added recovery time and to decrease your injury risk
as you age, remember these general guidelines:
at least 1 day per week
30 to 45
2 days per week
45 to 55
3 days per week
every other day
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