TRAIN LESS, STRESS LESS, RUN FASTER!
by Allison Macsas
Everyone knows that a successful running program should include plenty of miles and solid speed work, but the most important element is often overlooked: rest! Without it, all of your long miles and tough speed sessions will be wasted on exhaustion, burnout and, worst of all, injury. When it comes to your physical health, mental well-being and achieving your performance goals, less is more!
Hard training creates stress on the body, and this stress breaks down muscle fibers as you push your body to perform. These fibers become stronger each time they are repaired, increasing your fitness and performance potential, but they require recovery time to do so. Without rest, your body can’t repair itself to allow for improvement and you will quickly run yourself into one of the many overuse injuries, such as shin splints or stress fractures, that are so common among runners. Proper recovery is the most effective defense against injury, and the only way to become stronger.
Remember to be realistic: it’s a fact of life that a workout or long run will occasionally be missed due to other obligations or unforeseen events. It’s important to keep things in perspective and don’t try to “make it up;” simply pick up where you left off and progress from there. Doubling up has no benefit and is guaranteed to lead to injury, which certainly won’t make you any faster!
Running is perhaps one of the best mood-boosters out there, but too much can have a detrimental effect. While you want to prioritize your training, remember that it’s not the only priority; a training plan that routinely conflicts with family and career obligations or leaves you too exhausted to “fit it all in” is too intense of a plan, sure to have a crash-and-burn ending. Take the time to rest, keep things balanced and you’ll find that your running will stay consistent, you’ll remain excited about workouts and, most importantly, you will establish the runner’s lifestyle that is essential for peak performance!
Quality, not quantity, is the key. Instead of expending energy on “junk miles,” use it to fine-tune your fitness. Devote time to core strengthening and stretching, prevention practices that will help you avoid injury and make you a stronger overall athlete. Let each and every run have a focused goal: is it a long run for endurance, a tempo to work on your pace or a speed workout for leg turnover? When you are refreshed and recovered for your runs, you can clearly keep your goals in sight and face each one with enthusiasm! In addition, sufficient rest allows marathoners to prioritize the long run, making it longer and more intense than simply slogging through the miles on overworked legs. Remember: it’s not necessarily the weekly number in your running log that you want to see go up, it’s the number on the race clock that you want to see go down!
Overtraining can lead to irritability, a depressed immune system, decreased performance and, ultimately, injury. It happens to beginners and elites alike, but it doesn’t have to happen to you! By listening to your body, taking time for recovery, and focusing on quality, you will continue to increase both your physical and mental strength as your race times come down. Recovery is a training tool!