January is here. Christmas and New Year have come and gone, and the Half is now a few months away. Training has begun in earnest, and in unison with every other runner out there, you’re experiencing the tough yet rewarding grind of winter training.
This blog is dedicated to opening up the discussion about rest and its importance; a topic often skirted around.
As I write this, I am sat with my feet up, wearing a pair of knee high compression socks, sipping chocolate milk. Having completed a taxing road session this evening, this is a prime example of where rest is key to capitalising on gains made: after completing a gruelling run, make sure the hour or so afterwards is not spent rushing around or on your feet. Allow your legs to freshen up; lay with your feet up against a wall, foam roll, or chuck on a pair of compression socks.
Running causes small tears in the muscle, and impacts the body, resulting in the need for rest and recovery. Our clever bodies repair the damage, and adapt to become stronger. This takes time; depending on your experience and fitness levels, you should take at least one rest day a week, with beginners taking three or four a week. Decide for yourself how many you need by listening to your body.
On rest days, you can still enjoy ‘active recovery’ through light exercise (cycling, swimming, hiking…) but make sure you get a mental and physical break from your training plan so you are ready to come back stronger. Eating on rest days can be tricky to navigate.
The overall opinion from sources with proven success is this: aim for roughly the same calorie intake as a normal day, but make sure you go for nutrient rich foods, as your body is doing its thing by recovering and adapting. Aim for half a plate of veggies/fruit a meal, and top it up with protein and some carbs.
Rest days are a good time to focus on hydration too; ‘starting a run dehydrated is about as fun as losing a toenail’. If boozing is on the agenda, make sure you eat a solid meal first, as going straight for the beer can hurt the body’s ability to re-stock energy stores… and we all know what happens when you drink on an empty stomach!
Rest is one of the keys to becoming a smart and successful runner. Over training can lead to moodiness, poor performance and fatigue to name a few. Rest arguably maintains the enjoyment element, reduces risk of injury, and keeps your mind fresh to focus on the next hard training session.