If you wind up on the injured list, a health care practitioner will usually tell you to follow the RICE acronym—rest, ice, compression and elevation. Take note that the very first letter— “R”—stands for “rest.”
When you have a cold, the doctor tells you to “get some rest.”
As you prepare for a big race, you probably spend the last few weeks of training in “tapering” phase which is just another word for rest.
Are you sensing a trend here? Doesn’t it seem like rest is an important part of the process? Then why is it so hard for a runner to incorporate more rest in to their training schedule?
Here are some reasons that have been given for not resting:
- Losses and Gains. If I stop or slow down, surely my fitness level will decrease and all my hard work will have been for nothing. This will certainly lead to weight gain followed by a deep, dark depression. I’ll lose my confidence, self-esteem, job, and significant other. My dog will shun me. All because I stopped running or cut back the mileage for a couple of weeks.
- Mileage Envy. How come he gets to run a 15-mile trail run this weekend, and all I get to do is go swimming? Why am I stuck running a measly 3-miler when she has a cool track workout planned? And what about all those people entering cool races!? Not fair!
- Invincibility. I’m having an awesome season, I just don’t want to stop. What if I have another PR in me and I miss my chance to run the perfect race? Must. Keep. Racing.
- Revenge. I can’t believe I didn’t PR at that last race! There’s another race in a few weeks. No need to waste all this training…I’ll just try again. And again, if necessary. The season isn’t over—I’ll get that PR yet!
- Need Fulfillment. I have to run. Have. To. Run. Must run. If I don’t run, I can’t be held responsible for my behavior. I’ll go crazy if I don’t run, which will lead to depression. I’ll lose my confidence, self-esteem, job, and significant other.
In reality, a couple of weeks of rest will not have any long-term, irreversible effects. As a matter of fact, slowing down or stopping for a while will actually be good for your body and will most likely assist in preventing an injury. Cross-training is a great alternative for active rest if you just can’t stop moving.
Rest means repair—give your muscles a chance to heal, grow and rejuvenate. Spend your rest phase planning out a new training schedule. Peruse the race calendars. You may even have time to read a book for pleasure or spend time sleeping in. Think about how excited and motivated you’ll be to get back out there!