This is the third post in a 6-part series about the essential elements to being a fitter, healthier, happier runner. We all aspire to be healthier and happier – most of us anyways. In this six part series, I’ll talk about 6 elements that are key to many years of happy, healthy running.
Number three – Rest and Recovery.
Yep. You read that right. Rest and recovery — or quite simply, rest — is the most important element to better, lifelong running.
Contrary to what many people think, more running and exercise do not equate to better running. In fact, quite often it leads to injury, burnout and loss of motivation. And we don’t want that, do we? Oooh no!
Experienced runners often talk about recovery. By recovery we are talking about allowing our bodies to recovery from the demands of running. Without a proper, well planned recovery we wear our bodies down and either we get injured or running becomes un-fun.
To keep it fun, take your rest seriously. And who doesn’t like sleep and relaxation?
PLUS, well rested runners feel fresher and more energized on the run. Therefore, they get more out of their workouts and progress more quickly. So rest up if you want to feel more energized, make more progress, and get injured less.
A proper, well-planned and restful recovery could include some or all of the following:
- One, two or three days off of running — depending on the intensity and difficulty of your workout. Usually, the harder the workout, the more recovery you need.
- Putting your feet up for a few hours. This improves circulation which speeds up recovery.
- Extra sleep. Yes! Get it!
- Down time. Plan a spa day or some laid-back activities. Balancing hard efforts with downtime helps keep your cortisol levels in check.
- Hydration! When we run, we sweat. When we sweat, we lose water that our body needs to function optimally. So sweaty running needs to be paired with drinking lots of clear liquids!
- Healthful eating & drinking. Getting adequate protein and other essential vitamins and minerals help your body recover from stressful events and hard efforts. When you work hard, eat well. Your body will thank you!
Take OFF days
A reputable running schedule will carefully include rest days, or OFF days. Most often, these rest days will precede and follow your run days. As a general rule, the harder your run, the more the more time off you need to recover. So if you run hard on Tuesday, take Wednesday off. If you run far on Thursday, take Friday off.
Experienced runners need less recovery than beginners and if you’re just starting out, you may need two or even three days off between runs to adequately recover. Follow a reputable training plan or ask an expert about your particular situation.
Get your zzz’s!
Get enough sleep at night. Seven or eight hours is the general recommendation but some people will need more. Hard runs and increased exercise require extra sleep until your body adapts. Getting enough sleep will help you prevent injury by allowing your body to get stronger. During sleep, your body rebuilds and repairs muscle tissue making you stronger and ready for more workouts. If you’re not giving your body the time it needs, it breaks down and injury happens.
To conclude: if you want to make progress, make rest a priority. You’re body will thank you!
ASSIGNMENT: This week, make note of how much sleep you’re getting. Notice your energy levels and how you feel after an evening of good sleep. Notice how it affects your runs and experiment to find a formula that works for you.
Do you take your recovery seriously? What helps you recover from your runs? Tell us in the comments below. We’d love to hear from you!