Resting & Recovery
Rest days & recovery
How many days a week do you run?
How many days a week do you fully rest?
Most runners have a schedule that they follow week after week, it might be a recovery run on a Monday, hard sessions on Tuesday and Thursday, rest on a Wednesday, easy run on a Friday, Tempo session on a Saturday and of course Sunday is always long run day.
But what about taking more rest days? What about building proper recovery into your programme? What exactly is a recovery run? What about over-training or under-training? Do you control your schedule or does it control you? Does your Garmin tell you how to run or how you ran?
What does over-training actually mean and why is it a bad thing? Training is good, it's how we improve as runners, it's how we get fitter, faster and stronger. So what does it mean to over-train and are we all guilty of it at one time or another?
My opinions on this subject has changed recently, I've always sat at around 20-25 miles per week and that worked for me. That was 2 hard club sessions a week, a tempo run or Parkrun on a Saturday and a long run on a Sunday and that kept me fit and racing well and anytime I tried to add an extra session in I got injured, so to me that was when I entered the realm of over-training. Over lock down I've taken on some 1to1 run clients that I run with and overnight I went from 4 runs a week to 9 runs a week with double sessions on at least 3 of those, my mileage went up to 50-60 miles a week and I've been running 3 weeks solid before I get a rest day. So, why haven't I picked up an injury? Why did I run my fastest 5k in 5 years this week? Am I over training or am I actually conditioning my body to be a better runner?
The key here is not how much training I am doing but what type of training I am doing. I still do 2 hard sessions a week, one tempo run and one long run. My other runs are steady paced, they are ran in zone 1 or 2 and are enjoyable runs where my focus is my client and I am given the chance to sit back a little and relax my form and just enjoy running for what it is. My cardiovascular fitness has increased, my heart rate remains lower for longer on runs and my form has improved.
Over training exists of course and it's a real issue for so many runners and I know if I put an extra hill session or intervals in each week I would inevitably get injured and equally I know runners that do 4-5 hard sessions each week without any issue. So whats the main lesson here? It's that good old favourite of 'listen to your body' and if you feel you need a day off, then take a day off, be disciplined and focused in your training and it will come good.
What is a recovery run? How is a recovery run different to a normal run? Does it impact your joints and muscles any differently? Does it tire you out less?
No, of course it doesn't as it's still you going outside and running. Running is never going to be a recovery from running, you cant recover from something by doing the exact same thing! So stop thinking of it as a recovery run and be honest about what it is, it is an easy run. If you want to recover then go and lie on the settee with a gin and tonic and stick Netflix on.
We've touched on this on the podcasts recently (ep 5 & 7) and an easy run is a brilliant opportunity to try something new, keep an eye on your heart rate and stick to zones 1 and 2 and work on your form, run tall, work your arms, go off road, run on the beach, listen to some music, meet up with a friend and have a chatty run. You're not recovering, you're conditioning.
Foam roller or sport massage?
The simple answer here is both! Foam rolling should be a core part of your training schedule, not just for recovery but also for conditioning every week.
As I get older I find my body takes a little longer to recover from each hard session and a foam roller has become my best friend. Before each club session I complete a 5 minute foam roller routine, working my back, glutes and then down my legs , starting at the back on the hamstrings, calves, quads and finally shins. Work 1 leg at a time and really focus on the glutes . After a run steer clear of any rolling, each session will have fatigued your muscles and foam rolling will only add to that. After a session you need a hot shower, some food, some hydration and a rest.
Sports massage should be seen as just as important as that interval workout you love or your once monthly priory hills session. Sports massage is essential to stop that niggle becoming an injury, to bring full mobility back to your hip that you feel locking up a little on the hills, to stop your glutes and lower back from impinging on your leg lift on a speed session. By scheduling in a sports massage every 4-6 weeks you can discuss your training, your recovery, your aches and pains and get specific targeted advice and help to aid your training.
To sum it all up...
There is certainly no one size fits all approach when it comes to rest days, recovery and training but being honest with yourself is key. If you dont feel like doing a training session then don't do it, go for an easy run or just take the day off. If you have an injury then don't run, a few days off will let you know if it's going to improve and you certainly won't lose any fitness, if it doesn't improve then seek help, don't run a 3 mile tempo instead of your planned 5 mile tempo because you're 'taking it easy'.
Your body needs to be conditioned for running and the best way to do that is to run but it doesn't always have to be eyeballs out, there is always a time and a place for an easy run and the same for an eyeballs out run.
Get that dusty foam roller out of the cupboard and start using it, if you're stuck in a rut with your running then change it. Had a niggle for months that wont go away, book in a massage! Taking more rest days than run days? Then get your trainers on, ring a friend and meet up for a chatty run.
Remember training plans, Garmins and Strava are there to help you but you are in control of your running and always listen to your body and if you dont like listening to your body then make an appointment and listen to me instead!
Simon @ EQuilibrium