I reached out to Amanda Loudin, RRCA Coach and author of MissZippy1.com to answer tell me what is something many runners overlook in their quest to get fitter and faster? She came back with an answer that certainly resonated with me…I am going to work on following her tips, are you?
To my mind, as a coach and runner, rest is every bit as important as the time you put into your actual miles. Yet, for many runners, it’s the easiest part to mess up. There are myriad reasons behind this—worrying about loss of fitness, worrying about not training enough, or just the plain old itch to get out there and run. I get it, believe me, but also believe me when I say skipping rest is a recipe for disaster.
Why? All the hard work you put into running will get you no where if you don’t give your body a chance to rest and repair itself. Rest is where you make your gains.
Rest is also a way to give your body a chance to recharge its batteries and get ready for the next round. Skip it and you can get into a cumulative cycle of damage, leading to overtraining, lack of improvement, and yes, injury. And there’s no one sadder than an injured runner, trust me.
So, what do I recommend as far as rest goes? A few guidelines:
- Take at least one day off from running per week. This should be a day of complete rest, or a day that involves something very light and easy, like a short swim, or a nice walk with the dog.
- Alternate easy and hard days during training. Speedwork on a Tuesday? Great, but make sure Wednesday’s run is short and easy.
- Build a base first. Before you even consider doing speedwork or racing, you should build a firm base at an easy aerobic level of exertion. Ideally this base-building phase will last about eight weeks and is something you’ll do annually at the beginning of the season.
- Take some end of season rest. Most people finish up their seasons in mid- to late-fall. After your final big race of the year, take about a month to go easy and short.
- Give yourself proper time to recover after a race. Believe me, I understand the high that comes from a big/good race. You want to just get out there and run in the days following a good race. But you’re much better off if you instead take the time to recover fully before doing long runs or speedwork again. How much time varies by person and by race distance, but a very loose rule of thumb is one day for every mile run.
Some of you may shudder at the thought of these recommendations, or worry that you’ll lose too much fitness. I get that. And you may actually lose some fitness at the end of the season or after a big race like a marathon. But that’s ok—you can’t come back as strong or stronger if you don’t.
Amanda Loudin is a freelance writer, running coach, and the voice behind the MissZippy1 blog, a site for runners seeking experienced advice, the latest running news, and a fun exchange of all things running related.
Amanda has been running and competing in triathlons for 14 years now. Her athletic experience includes nine marathons, an Ironman, and literally hundreds of other races.