Training Tips - The Underestimated Value of Rest & Recovery by Coach Dave Taylor
“Rest days are for wimps!” D Taylor, Tattenhall Runners circa 1984
“The value of rest and recovery is often ignored – at the runner’s peril! D Taylor, Coach, August 2021.
I’m glad to say that in the decades I’ve been a competitive runner I’ve actually learned a few things and this is the biggest.
I don’t remember when the penny dropped but I eventually made the connection between the frankly silly amount of training I was doing (yes, I know now!) and the wide variety of injuries that stopped me in my tracks. Some repeatedly.
In my defence I was the product of an era when big miles were the done thing. Get them in or lose out lads!
“So, you did 80 miles last week, eh? Not bad but I did 100!”
A lot of us were pounding the streets on this basis and getting knackered and injured. Often, we had to run twice in the day to reach the target miles. That saw me running 8 miles to work (where there was no shower…) then running home, the later session earmarked to be the core tough run because the early one had to be relatively gentle, so I didn’t sweat too much.
Those morning runs are a perfect example of a session that contributed very little to my racing fitness and tired me out. Which leads me neatly to one of my favourite subjects – JUNK MILES.
Training Point 1: If a session is neither hard nor easy then it is JUNK. I suggest you examine your training regime – in fact your entire lifestyle – and ask yourself whether each thing you do is actively contributing in a positive way to your fitness. Or is that 5 mile run merely a filler that is merely adding to your level of fatigue.
In other words, I want you to think about running SMARTER
Training Point 2: A recovery day is as important as a hard training session.
This cannot be over-emphasised.
For me as a fledgling runner in the 80’s that meant just running a bit shorter and slower on alternate days but never daring to drop a run from my seven days a week schedule.
And, of course, I got injury after injury.
One common problem is that runners run their hard sessions to slowly and their easy sessions too quickly. So, if your recovery session just has to be an easy run you need to make it VERY easy.
Training Point 3: Help your body to get fresh for the next hard session by repairing itself.
Most of us are familiar with the process of building muscle. An obvious example is the bodybuilder. They pump the iron to break down muscle fibres etc and then allow the muscle to repair itself. As it rebuilds a little bit more is added to the muscle and, hey presto, a bigger bicep.
Crucially the bodybuilder will work different muscle groups on different days to allow the worked muscles to do the repair thing. My apologies to bodybuilders for the oversimplification!
Crucially they know that rest and relaxation is vital to the building strength and conditioning.
For running we are working predominantly but not exclusively on our legs and cardio – in fact all the body parts that support the running motion. And all these muscles will be desperate to rest and repair so you have got to give them the chance!
And, like the bodybuilders, help the healing process by feeding the body with some protein. There are lots of protein shake products out there so you should be able to find something that works for you.
Training Point 3: Rest and recovery doesn’t mean sitting on your arse.
In fact, prolonged sitting is bad news for any athlete as things seize up. Sitting in front of my laptop working on this piece is definitely not in the best interests of my running but it is a sacrifice I will nobly make to support you guys.
There are lots of things you can do on your rest days that will complement your running big style. When I took a straw poll of my running group the other night swimming came out as the big favourite. It’s a fantastic way to loosen those joints, muscles and other bits. It’s also great cardio!
Do some light weights work. There’s plenty of information out there as to what works best to support a runner.
Go on an easy bike. That way your muscles are going through a range of motion without the stress or impact that comes with running.
Have a brisk walk. I’m having issues with my glutes right now and find a walk stops them grumbling. Get out in the countryside if you can.
Get a sports massage. Make this a regular thing rather than a session to cope with some injury.
Other fabulous activities are pilates and yoga which lead me to:_
Training Point 5: Stretch, stretch then stretch some more!
I have to admit that in the past I used to largely ignore this and only pursued a regime of stretching when I was struggling with an injury and obeying physio’s orders. These days I stretch daily to ward off injury rather than repair the damage. I also realise that a more supple runner is a more efficient runner and a faster runner. And I need all the help I can get now I’m knocking on a bit.
So, a decent stretching session is a key part of my rest day regime and I count it as being vital to getting me running well the next day.
Training Point 6: Every four weeks ease off. This is the training equivalent of allowing your body to recharge its batteries before you launch yourself into the next phase of your training. There are great physical and mental benefits to taking the pressure off on a regular basis, making you fresh for the hard work ahead.
I hope these pointers will be of some benefit to you.
So please be the 2021 me rather than the 1980’s version. Your body and your running will thank you for it. TRAIN HARD, TRAIN SMART!
Vincent Boit in 2015
Amanda Crook in 2013
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