[quote]Running hard, day after day to run eventually leads to burnout, no matter how tough you are” says coach Jenny Spangler[/quote]
How long you choose to back off is up to you – a newbie running 20 to 35km a week may feel rejuvenated after two to three weeks of scaling back, while a hard-charging marathoner may need up to two months of easy going.
Don’t quit exercising entirely, or coming back will be more difficult. Instead, try these ways to tone things down so you’re rested, recovered, and ready for a fitter, faster Spring.
Put On Hold: High Mileage Rather: Make Time To Cross-train
For the first one to two weeks of your break, drop your mileage to zero and do only light cross-training like cycling, swimming, weight training, or yoga. This gives your body time to repair tiny muscle tears and restock levels of hormones and enzymes that facilitate muscle regeneration.
For the next three to six weeks, slowly pump up the volume: For one to two weeks, run 25% of your prebreak mileage; for the next one to two weeks, 50%; and in the final one to two weeks, 75%.
Put On Hold: Speedwork Rather: Try Fartleks For Prep
During your break, you need to inject some speed to keep your legs and lungs strong – this will also help ease the eventual return to your regular running routine. Fartleks are a great way to maintain some leg speed without stressing your body or mind too much. There are no time, distance, or pace goals involved; it’s only about the effort.
Once or twice a week, in the middle of a run, do five fartlek pickups of up to three minutes each at a pace that feels moderately hard. Jog between each for as long as it takes you to recover. If you’re running with friends, take turns initiating the pickup and determining how long and how fast to make it.
Put On Hold: Long Runs Rather: Maximise Your Time
Putting long runs on the shelf for a while not only gives your running muscles more time to recover from a year of steady running but gives you more free time to spend with the family or to tackle long-neglected, demanding household tasks, such as your leaf-choked gutters.
After you cross-train for a week or two, run no longer than 30 to 40 minutes at a time for two weeks. For the remaining three to four weeks of your scale-back period, your longest run should be one-third to one-half the distance of your prebreak long run.
Put On Hold: Time Goals Rather: Sign Up For Fun
It may seem strange to schedule an event when you’re supposed to be taking it easy, but the opportunity to race with zero pressure can be liberating and fun. Minus the nerves and expectations, you’ll be free to soak up the vibe, pace slower friends or family members, cheer on fellow runners, and revel in the postrace party.
Find a local 10-K or fun run, encourage a buddy to join you, and leave the watch at home.
Run a race? The number of days you should back off after a race is roughly equal to half the number of kays you ran, e.g., half-marathoners should take it easy for 10 days.