This article was originally posted by Ryan at the original HillRunner.com Blogs.
Mid-October is here. Most of us have probably recently wrapped up our 2014 racing season or are close to doing so. So what do we do now? Most of us know we need some recovery but how much? The answer is probably more than you think.
It’s time to give yourself a real break. Not just a down week or two but a month’s worth of down time.
I know what some of you are thinking. A month? Are you kidding me? I didn’t run a marathon. Why do I need to take a month? That’s very true but you’re not just recovering from the race. You were training hard leading into the goal race you just ran, right? For how long? 6 months? 10 or 11 months? During that time, not only did you push your body hard but you taxed yourself mentally and you probably sacrificed something outside of running that you enjoy. Maybe you gave up cycling because you couldn’t fit it in on Saturday mornings due to your long runs. Maybe you gave up a fitness class you like or hikes with the family or something else because you just didn’t have the energy. This is the time to go do those things. It’s also the time to give your body and mind a real break.
So what do you do during this month? I’d like to suggest no running for at least a week at some point but I also know that, if you’re like me, that’s not realistic. I suggest it but I don’t do it myself because running is how I keep my sanity. At the very least, reduce your volume and intensity dramatically. If you must run, try to keep it to no more than 30-40 minutes per run or no more than about 50% of your usual volume. No fast running of any kind for at least 1-2 weeks. No hard workouts for the whole month.
More specifically, here’s what I would suggest by week:
Week 1: If you can bring yourself to do it, don’t run at all. If you must, try to limit yourself. Keep the pace very relaxed and try to stay with no more than 30-40 minutes. Ideally, I’d like to see this at or below 30 minutes and fewer runs than your normal weekly routine. Of course, I’m one who breaks these ideals so I know how it goes. Do as little as possible and keep it as relaxed as possible. You’re not training. Just run for fun. You remember how to do that, right? You do remember that the simple act of running is fun, right?
Week 2: If you don’t want to run yet, don’t. If you can’t resist, add some running back in. Keep it relaxed and short. If you’ve been running, follow the same guidelines as week 1. This is also a good time to add in some auxiliary training. If you don’t do much stretching/mobility work, this is a good time to try some different options out. See if something works well for you and you enjoy it. Some people prefer static stretching, some prefer active isolated, some prefer more dynamic mobility exercises, some prefer things like yoga. In my opinion, the key is to find what feels good to you and you enjoy doing.
Week 3: If you’re not running yet and you don’t feel the itch, continue not running. If you’re ready to start, follow the guidelines above. If you are running, don’t build yet. Keep running for run. You can run more days if you wish but not more distance yet. This is a good week to work in some strength training. I suggest body weight exercises but, as with stretching/mobility, the key is to find something that feels good to you and that you like.
Week 4: Again, If you’re not running yet and you don’t feel ready to start yet, don’t. If you are running, you can work back toward your regular frequency but don’t increase the duration yet. Again, you should ideally be going the shorter of 30 minutes per run or 50% of your typical run distance and keeping it very easy. If you must, do more but keep it to as little as you can and keep it truly easy. Again, run for fun. You’re not training yet.
Week 5: Back to training. Start slowly, though. Strides are a good way to start faster running. Increase volume gradually at first. You’ll be able to increase more quickly soon enough.
If you take one month off training right now, that’s less than 10% of the year but it can lead to much better quality training for the other 90% of the year. Go enjoy some things you’ve been skipping. It will pay off later when you’re mentally and physically refreshed and ready to train harder than if you skimped on this recovery period.