Recovery can come in the form of very easy running, cross-training, massage, ice baths, or chiropractic care. Obviously, if you go overboard on time off it will cost you most – if not all – of your hard-earned fitness.
However, I’m such a big believer in the power of restoration that I usually place my athletes on a five-week rest schedule at the end of every cross-country and track season. When done correctly, this process has reinvigorated my athletes without stripping them of their fitness. Follow it, and you’ll be ready to meet the demands of a new competitive season.
WEEK ONE – JUST REST
Lounge around the pool, have a braai, catch up with friends and family and don’t worry about running or cross-training. Your body needs this time to repair muscle tissue and restock glycogen stores and your mind will appreciate a mini-vacation from the rigours of training.
WEEK TWO – CROSS-TRAIN
Following a total rest week, my athletes are usually dying to do something. Do three to five easy cross-training sessions of 30 minutes or less. Cross-training gets you back into an exercise routine (which most of us can’t live without) but still allows your body time to heal. Mentally it gets us yearning to be back in running mode.
WEEK THREE – RUN EASY
Head out for an easy 30 to 40 minutes five or six times over the week. Throw in six 100m strides on two occasions to activate your fast-twitch muscle fibres. A gradual return to running will help avoid any overuse injuries that may occur when you’re picking it up after a rest period.
WEEK FOUR – MIX IT UP
For six consecutive days, alternate longer runs with shorter runs. Longer runs should be 45 minutes or longer; shorter runs should be less than 40 minutes. On two of your long days, run hills or do fartleks to get accustomed to increasing intensity. This will get you back into the routine of hard and easy days without actually going hard.
WEEK FIVE – MAKE IT HARDER
Do one easy tempo run and one conservative interval session. Recover between each with easy runs. These scaled-back sessions will put your mind into training mode without breaking your body down. As you complete the transition into regular training, don’t push too much on hard days. You’ll feel fresh and light from the break, but it will take a few weeks to get back to your former fitness level.
Key Workouts To Do In Your Final Week Of Rest
Tuesday: 15- to 20-minute tempo run at a comfortably hard pace (about 10 seconds per kilometre slower than normal tempo pace)
Thursday: 3 to 5km’s worth of intervals at 10-K pace
Saturday or Sunday: 20km long run