On Monday, I did what for some hard core runners might be the unthinkable--I took a rest day. I wasn’t feeling pain anywhere from my race and long run on Sunday. I was actually feeling quite the opposite: not sore at all and full of energy. My schedule didn’t require me to rest, though it was listed as an option. I just decided I would.
Looking back at my training records, I hadn’t taken a day off from running in 80 days. That’s a long stretch. I used to make excuses for why I shouldn’t take rest days. I felt worse after taking a rest day was my favorite. Guess what? I felt no worse during Tuesday’s 9 miler for having rested on Monday and have felt great in all subsequent runs.
I think it’s hard for competitive runners to see the value in taking a rest day. We train so hard and believe that it’s only that hard training that propels us to faster times. We rarely think about taking a rest day or building recovery weeks into our programs. However, scientists tell us what really makes us faster is the physiological response of our bodies to that hard work. Moreover, this adaptation occurs when we’re not training. If you gyp yourself of that recovery time, you may still get faster, but you won’t optimize your training. Even worse, you might get slower because you get injured.
While I understand this simple training principle, I would not follow it if I didn’t have a training plan that forced recovery and rest on me. I am in the middle of a planned recovery week right now as a matter of fact, only running 61 miles after a light week last week of 72. I am enjoying this easy week because I have two weeks of hell coming up.
These next 3 weeks of training are all 95-mile weeks for me and represent the heart of my marathon training for the Twin Cities Marathon. On top of the crazy training schedule, I have my annual 2-week military tour coming up starting Monday where I commute to Travis AFB daily for my training. I’m lucky to be able to remain local for my tour, but the commute is at least one hour each way. Add that to 9-10 hours at work, and we’re looking at an 11-12 hour workday. I don’t even want to do the math to figure out how little sleep I’ll get. Tuesday, I have a 21-mile training day and will probably have to start my morning 16 miles at 4 a.m. to fit it in before work. I'll then come home and run another 5 late in the evening.
This is just fair warning to anyone that has to deal with me these next 2 weeks: I will be sleep-deprived, my house will become a hairy mess, and I will likely interpret any criticism as harboring malicious intent. Oh, and definitely do not get between my food and me. You will lose a hand.