I get it, I've been there - you're in your stride training is going well then your coach schedules in an easier week or maybe you're not feeling like you need a rest day within your training week?
Sometimes when you feel like you're on top form we can fear that if we stop we won't get back into it or that we will lose the gains we've accrued from training - what if I told you that rest days/easier weeks (or Adaption Weeks as I like to call them) could be the key to helping you on your way to becoming a stronger faster runner? The ego in your mind might tell you I'm talking crap and the fear will push you to keep training - well you know the saying 'feel the fear but do it anyway'? I want you to apply this here!
This is why rest days or an Adaptation Weeks help:
Muscles, bones and connective tissue (ligaments and tendons) adjust to the load and stress we put our bodies through when training. These adaptations and adjustments occur through rest or a decrease in training volume. If you don't rest, your body will struggle to repair muscle breakdown.
When you're training to develop the cardiovascular system you put significant load on your body through stress and impact. The connective tissues taking this impact are slower to develop than the cardiovascular system and so it is important that your training load increases gradually to give time for your body to catch up. Think of it as your lungs are the engine that drives you however if the mechanics surrounding the engine (your body) isn't up to scratch it doesn't really matter how good the engine is, the body and parts will give way at some point.
This links back to tissue adaptation. Regular training puts your body under stress and so whilst you are continuing to get fitter you should be kind to yourself and allow your body to recover otherwise injuries will occur whether this is due to weak muscles or overuse. Regular rest days and Adaptation Weeks will give your body chance to rebuild and come back stronger preventing injury.
YOU WILL NOT LOSE FITNESS BY INCORPORATING REST INTO YOUR TRAINING
Your hard efforts will not deplete during these periods your body will thank you for doing so and in turn reward you.
Up to 1 week complete rest - impact on stress levels is negligable. POSITIVE adaptation occur.
Up to 2 weeks complete rest - VO2 Max - the body's ability to take in and utilise oxygen, begins to decline but can be gained after a couple of weeks of training. Effect on strength training is minimal.
Up to 4 weeks complete rest - VO2 Max drop around 6% and fairly signicant thereafter. Cardiovascular fitness is also effected.
A mental break from training can make huge difference to your attitude and mindset towards training especially if life is busy or you are going through an intense training period. Knowing that there's an Adaptation Week on the cards can mentally help you keep training when things are hectic or tough.
Not all rest days need to be complete rest, you can take active recovery days. A 2018 study found that active recovery can benefit people by:
1. Reducing lactic acid buildup in the muscles
2. Increasing blood flow to muscle tissue
3. Removing metabolic waste from the muscles
4. Reducing muscle tears and pain
Active recovery encompasses gentle exercise — such as walking or yoga, which increases blood flow to the muscles without the intensity of a workout and can improve circulation and aid recovery.
Hopefully now you can see how rest helps - rest shouldn't be seen as a burden its all part of the bigger picture of being a runner - it is an element of training just how hydration and fuelling is.
Enjoy the rest or active recovery and allow your body to create the adaptions your're aiming for. Ultimately you run because you enjoy moving your body - don't put your body in a position where injury is highly likely as this may put you out of running for a while. This is not what you want especially as you get so many other benefits from getting out there and running!
If 'Rest Fear' is something you struggle with then notice that lots of other people do and now is the time to face it and put it into practice. I'm always happy to chat to help keep you running long term!
Personal Trainer/LiRF/ Run Coach from Nottingham
Club: Holme Pierrepont RC