This month marks my two-year anniversary as a runner and marathoner, and comparable to my first year, my second year is slowly moving towards half marathons, shorter trainings and longer downtimes between runs. With a 1000-mile challenge in play for 2016, I have taken a break to recover and rejuvenate in these last few weeks.
To be at my best during training season, recovery takes a pivotal role in my life as a runner. It may be occasional set aside in attempts to ride it out, but I have learned that our bodies will spiral downwards if we don’t give them some loving in between runs.
With only three months into 2016, I am on track to complete my I ❤ to run’s 2016 1000-Mile Gold Challenge. I initiated my training at a solid 25-30 miles/week, and slowly tapered off to 15-20 miles/week. More recently, though, I noticed the frequency of my runs winding down to 10-15 miles/week at once a week. Motivation was dying and I was exhausted mentally, emotionally and physically. But…why?!
I was not alone. High mileage, long distance running, as we know, is hard and taxing for runners. But, for most runners, what’s even harder is knowing when to take a break from running.
As with all fitness trainings, what our body needs at times is the 3Rs: rest, recovery and rejuvenate. Same approach as weight lifters practice – you don’t get stronger from lifting weights, you get stronger when you’re recovering from lifting weights. The same concept here applies to running. Your body needs a break to recover, adapt and rebuild. Constantly pounding yourself into the ground – as much as we love it – won’t train us to be faster, stronger runners if our bodies don’t have time to heal and build the muscles we break down.
How Much Recovery Do I Need?
If you’re new to running, consider taking every other day off, and if you’re a seasoned runner, consider one day off per week. Above all, listen to your body. If you’re agonizing to roll out of bed in the morning, that might be a cue to take it easy. You know your body, trust your gut and don’t let guilt or a training plan tell you how to feel or do otherwise.
If, however, you’re truly overtrained, recovery can extend between three to five days and longer depending on how long you have overtrained. Common symptoms of overtraining include:
- Fatigue or lack of energy
- Prolonged muscle soreness
- Irritability and moodiness
- Loss of enthusiasm
- Decrease in performance
- Decreased immunity or getting sick more frequently than normal
What Does Rest, Recovery and Rejuvenate Mean?
Taking the day off is just as important as taking the day off properly. We train at full capacity if not more, our time off should be just as focused. Here are a few tips on getting the most out of your recovery days:
- Take the full day completely off. This sounds simple but in actuality it is one of the most difficult things runners achieve. Do not take this day as means to travel heavily or jam-pack your schedule with errands, events and alternative trainings. This means find a day where you can truly decompress and indulge in some quality R&R time.
- Pamper yourself. Your body is sore, your mind and soul needs some loving. Book a deep tissue massage to relax those muscles, or use this day to treat yourself for new running shoes or running gear.
- Roll it out. Every runner’s best friend is a foam roller or massage ball. Take a few moments on your day off to flush out your legs and speed up your recovery process.
- Stretch it out. Take your day off to unwind and stretch out with some much needed yoga. Focused on the breath and meditation, take a relaxing yoga class to rejuvenate your mind, body and soul. Opt out of hot yoga or strenuous yoga classes – save that for a strength workout on a cross training day.
- Soak it out. Treat yourself to a mini-spa at home with an Epsom salt bath. High in magnesium and sulfate, Epsom salt is a natural exfoliant and anti-inflammation remedy that can be used to treat sore muscles and speed up recovery.
- Check your diet. Protein. Protein. Protein. Are you getting enough high-quality protein? Re-evaluate, and if you’re not getting in around 80 grams per day, then consider adding some more lean proteins to your meals (i.e. tuna, almonds, boneless skinless chicken breasts, eggs, grassfed beef, soy protein, etc). This is especially true for post-workout meal boosts, and is key to help increase muscle recovery.