Coming home from the Boston Marathon, I had rest and recovery on my mind.
In training for a distance event, at some point on your training plan, you will come across something like “rest day” or “recovery day.” For some endurance athletes, those are really simple instructions to follow | grab a Bloody Mary and a beer chaser, turn on the TV and chill out! For others, it’s not so simple | maybe you get the feeling that you’re not doing enough, and you can use that “rest day” or “recovery day” to play “catch-up.”
Don’t do it!
Actually, don’t take either of those approaches. Your recovery, or rest day, is an important part of your overall training. It is on these days that you actually gain strength and at the same time, get a little mental relief from all the long, hard hours that you have been putting in. Not only that, these are days that allow you a little time with friends and family | or maybe you can finally help with the laundry, mowing the lawn or doing the dishes. Someone will appreciate that…and give you a little more freedom on those really tough training days.
Back to the actual concept of a rest, or recovery, day. The process of gaining strength is a two-step process. The first step is obvious | it’s the workout. Yes, it’s true, you won’t gain a lot of strength without doing the workout, but what’s also true, is the fact that you won’t gain a lot of strength without the recovery. That is step two in the process.
Here’s how it works | your muscles actually break-down a little during the workout process, and they need to heal after the workout. That healing process is where you actually gain some strength, and without allowing the muscles to heal, they won’t gain strength.
That said, you also don’t want to take the “grab a beer and chill out on the couch” approach to recovery. You can actually help the healing process by getting blood flowing to those damaged muscles, which will in turn, help you more successfully repair the damage to those muscles…and gain strength. Yoga or pilates are great ways to get the blood flowing, and both have the added benefit of forcing you to work on core strength and stability | areas that many endurance athletes tend to ignore. Massage or accupuncture will also do the trick | encouraging blood flow to those damaged muscles and helping you heal up stronger than ever.
You’ll want to also think about this concept when you see “recovery week” on the training plan. Yes, the week will still have workouts | but they should be shorter and less intense. Remember, this is not the time to prove your strength, speed or endurance | this is a time to simply get the blood flowing to those muscles and heal up properly. Come race-day, you’ll have more endurance, and be stronger and faster than ever before!