Some people can really put their bodies through the ringer– crazy high mileage, hard runs, long training cycles –and make it to a starting line ready to race. I, however, cannot. Not without rest at least.
I did a marathon cycle where I didn’t rest nearly as often as I should have, and it resulted it major burnout and a 6 month hiatus from running. I don’t ever want that to happen again. To fight this, I like to break my training into two week clumps. I run hard for two weeks, and then insert a rest week. During the rest week, I let my mileage drop and my pace slow. Since I’m not always the best at recovery runs during my hard weeks (even though I try), I feel these rest weeks are good for my body. It lets me slow down and run easily, sleep more (since I’m running less) and recuperate in general.
It’s also awesome for my head. I get to go out there, knowing I’m only running 5 miles (or whatever. Maybe even a three miler!) and whatever pace my body wants to. I don’t have to think about splits or workouts, I can just zone out and think about whatever.
I didn’t get out for a run yesterday like I normally do (which is FINE and I’m not sweating over it because rest week!). Life happens and a run wasn’t high on my priority list yesterday (which, I should mention is ONLY because it was a rest week. Any other week and you bet your butt I’m getting at least one mile in).
This morning, however, I set out for a run. Remember a few months ago when I talked about the Therapy Run? Well, I haven’t actually had one since I ran that one. But this morning, I needed one. It was snowy, windy and cold. I didn’t really want to be out there, but I knew I would feel better after it.
I ran easy. I thought about life and all the things I’m thankful for. I saw the sunrise. I saw the clouds moving across my mountains and I ran on a new trail.
My legs were sluggish (thank you 18 miler) and the route was hilly, but I feel so much better.
Letting yourself step back and run for you every once in a while is so important. I’m so guilty of focusing solely on splits and paces and distance when I train that sometimes I forget why I love to run so much.
That’s why I think these rest weeks are so important. It allows me to step back from the intensities of training and run because I want to run. To remember why I’m doing it–why I’m forcing myself up before dawn, why I’m running for three hours on my only day off with my boyfriend, why my legs ache constantly, why I’m falling asleep on the couch at 8pm every night…
So, I encourage you to take a rest week in your cycle. Slow it down a bit. It’s worth it.