Today I want to talk about the one thing that runners hate probably more than anything else: taking time off of training. For me, personally, running is my outlet. It’s the only time of day I really get to myself where I am not working or taking care of my kids or my house, etc. I need it for my sanity more than anything. It doesn’t help that it’s also my “drug” of choice. The endorphins are something that my body craves, and days when I don’t run, my husband pretty much is forcing me out the door because I am in such a bad mood.
However, despite the NEED to run, and the WANT to run, our bodies absolutely need to have the time off from training. Yes, it SUCKS to have to take some time off. It SUCKS not running. It SUCKS not TRAINING. But, here’s the deal, guys. You continue pushing your body day after day without taking time to REST, you WILL end up getting hurt. No one is immune to this. I wish I could say that I can train day after day, week after week, month after month, year after year, and not have to worry about getting injured. I mean, wouldn’t that be the perfect running life?! But, the reality is, you absolutely MUST take time off to avoid getting injured.
As a running coach, we learn about training cycles: macrocycles, mesocycles, and microcycles. All serve a different purpose in your training. Think of them as your long, medium, and short term goals. What do you want to accomplish in the next six months to year (macrocycle), what do you want to accomplish in the next month or 2 (mesocycle), and what do you want to accomplish in the next week, or even day (microcycle). Ideally, you want to break your training into these cycles and add in time to REST for each of them.
In your macrocycle, you want to look at your “seasons” of racing. What are your goal races for the year? In my year, so far, I had 3 goal races: a half marathon in April, another in July, and my last one in October. I broke my training up into 3 macrocycles based on each of those races, and now, I am currently in my 4th macrocycle for the year, which is all about rest and recovery. In addition, I took at least 2 weeks off from any real training after each one of those macrocycles – not only because my body physically needed a break, but because we get so burnt out from training after focusing on one goal race for 2 to 3 months at a time, our minds need that break as well.
Think of your mesocycles as 3 to 4 week cycles. This will really depend on your individual training and what works for you. My mesocycles are typically 4 weeks long – 3 build up weeks, followed by a cutback week to serve in some recovery. In each of those mesocycles, I have 4 microcycles, 1 week each. I set a goal for each of these weeks, schedule these workout in, as well as schedule specific rest days. That doesn’t mean I can’t move those rest days around if I need to, but I know that my body can only handle 5 or 6 days of running during a microcycle. If I am continually pushing my body without a break, I end up with nagging injuries, or the worst injury of all, a stress fracture. Thankfully, I’ve learned from my past experiences and have gone almost 10 years without a major injury. *knock on wood*
So, how much time should you take off? Really, that depends on what your body can handle. I know that I need at least 1 day off per week, and I know my body can only handle 25 to 35 miles per week. Anything above that, and I am bound to get injured. I used to be able to run 6 days and 35+ miles per week when I was in my 20s, but I quickly learned that my 30s and two pregnancies later, my body simply cannot handle that kind of mileage. I also try to take a few weeks off at the end of my racing seasons (spring, summer, and fall) and spend some time doing less mileage and lower intensity workouts. Now, this year, I am going to push it a little more and do some higher intensity workouts, BUT I will be keeping my mileage fairly low (between 20-30 miles per week) in order to really prepare my body for speed once the spring racing season comes back around. Plus, winter running just SUCKS in general, so it’s nice to give my mind and body a little break when it’s a little harder to get outside to run consistently.
And if you are TOTALLY lost and need help with all this scheduling, I would love to COACH you! My VIP runners receive help establishing goals that work for them on their own timelines and around their schedules, the receive a customized training program, access to my HIIT for Runners program (for 3-weeks and beyond), unlimited email access and/or 1-on-1 personal phone calls, and nutritional guidance for day-to-day running as well as race day fueling! If you have a goal race in mind in the coming months, I’d be happy to chat with you via phone or email about how I can help you achieve your goals. Email me (firstname.lastname@example.org) or leave a comment and I will get back to you ASAP!