The Importance of Doing ‘Enough’ During Rest Periods for the Runner

Mentally and physically runners need a break, especially from the rigours of routine. The problem with complete rest is that returning to training represents a massive increase in loading and therefore, risk of injury. There is a minimum dose of training that enables the runner to reduce the risk of injury and detraining associated with complete rest.

I have just come back from my own rest period during the month of August. August and Christmas are two times of year when I find myself particularly fed up of the routine consistency demands. It’s not surprising given that training and event preparation take up ~10.5 months of the year. I try to give myself a complete mental break in that there are no major targets or set days that I have to run during rest periods.

The season ended for me this year on July 31st when I set off to France for some downtime. I spent two weeks just running every 2nd day, distances between 5 and 9-miles at whatever pace my legs chose to go. The next two weeks in Ireland were busy and had a busy social programme. In keeping with giving myself permission not to have a set routine, socialising took priority. At the same time, I began to think about what would help my return to my normal running routine in September.

Doing Enough

In September it would help to be able to:

  • run at session pace without it being a shock to my legs (especially track pace).
  • complete sessions and runs without being crippled by the muscle soreness that comes with the re-introduction to weights and circuit training.
  • do a long run that wasn’t too far away from target long run distance.

And so, for 2-weeks, I found myself rotating in a cycle of:

  • A run with 20 x 60 seconds in the middle of it
  • A short jog and mini circuit
  • An easy run of 8-10-miles
  • A weights session in the gym

These were not done on set days or with set regularity but each day I could train, I picked up the cycle where I left off. I ended up with 3 x circuits, 3 x weights, 3 x (20 x 60 sec run efforts) and 2 runs of 8 – 10 miles during my Irish trip.

Something I particularly like about the circuits and weights in this routine is that during holiday periods your body is often not really conditioned for big miles. The conditioning training allows you to work hard with little risk of injury. In addition, as you start to become more conditioned you have prepared your body to be better able to handle the return to running.

The Return to Action

I have just completed my 3rd week of structured training (of an 8-week block). I am running ~40-miles a week, have completed 3-tempo sessions, 3-track sessions and progressed my long run to 14-miles with no issues other than the normal training fatigue associated with the re-introduction of structured training. The speed and relative ease in which I’ve returned to training suggests in August, I did enough. I should premise that statement by saying that running for 132 of the last 137 weeks (2.5 years) is a major contributor to my overall conditioning and ability to return from rest periods in this way.

New Ideas

My main purpose in training this way was to maintain the load through my tendons which I had carefully built up since March. However, it has made me reflect on its benefits for maintaining fitness whilst having a mental break and thereby being refreshed and eager to complete more intensive training blocks. I have begun to consider increasing my number of short (1-2 weeks) ‘rest’ periods in a given year between more intense blocks (that usually target specific races). A bit like I discussed in the last blog of last season, it seems a good way of distracting yourself into a very consistent cycle of high-quality training (assuming you’ve built a good base level of fitness to work from).

You don’t always need to do your normal training routine, you just need to do enough.