Friday, 2 August 2013

The Art of Rest

I've gotten into the habit of running at least three times a week.


Weekends are usually busy these days so my long runs are assigned to Monday nights. I'm clocking around 10 miles at the moment which puts me right on track of my training schedule. Tuesdays are rest or light cross training before an easy 5k on Wednesday. Thursdays I walk or cross train before a moderate-paced 10k on Friday with a few sprints or hills thrown in.

Usually that regime is enough but not too much for my body.

As I up the mileage on my long runs I feel like I'm enhancing my endurance and the sprints give me just enough burn in my thighs and calves to let me know I've worked.

We all have bad weeks, when we feel sluggish and lazy, when our pace slackens and we can't get our breathing right, but I actually think the good weeks, when we feel like we could run and run and never stop, are the most dangerous


I've just had a week like that. I did a solid 10 miler on Monday followed by an 8k walk on Tuesday, a 5k run on Wednesday and a 12k run on Thursday. I feel fantastic. No aches or pains or twinges or stings and quite frankly, when I finished work early today and took one look at the sunny weather, the only thing I wanted to do was lace up.


"Go for it," I hear my inner macho cry. "Pump those endorphins and sweat out that workday stress." 

But what we all too often forget, is that once we get into this vicious cycle, it can be a bitch too stop - and suddenly it's too late.

Let it go

From my experience of speaking to fellow sports enthusiasts, runners tend to share the common trait of discipline. Many of us set our alarms an hour early in the morning just to feel the bracing air on our faces, get our pulses racing and hearts pumping before work. We voluntarily tumble out of bed on a frosty February morning leaving our partners slumbering away. Even the pub after work or a hot date can be put on the back burner at the cost of a revitalising work out.
 

Harder, faster, further is what we tell ourselves. And it isn't until we're sucking on the nuzzles of our water bottles and stretching out our quads, happy chemicals rushing through our bodies, that we can truly relax.

Yes, it's fine to rely on exercise to get our kicks twice, three or even four times a week, but the strongest athlete will know where to draw the line.

Practice makes perfect.

Essential R&R

The best way to get in the habit of taking rest days is to schedule them and to stick to them as arduously as you do to your runs.


Once they're in your diary, consider them binding. Even if your long run was rubbish, you cramped up and you ran half the pace of your PB, don't be tempted to make up for it with a cheeky next-day work out. A weak performance is more often than not a sign of fatigue so if you feel like you lacked tiger in your tank, that's all the more reason for you to take break.


Rest days are great opportunities to give something back to your body too. Have a massage, go to the hair dressers, get a pedicure or go to a yoga class. No power or bikram yoga though - that's cheating.


Or how about socialising? Invite friends over for dinner and cook or better still - bake a cake. If you're serious about running you can probably eat pretty much anything without notably piling on the pounds. Have a glass of wine, a beer or a cocktail.


You're only human after all and reaching the start line without injuries related to over-training will inevitably make your experience infinitely more pleasurable. Even if its a skill that most of us have to practice. 

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