Reducing your training for a week can help keep overuse injuries away. Rest weeks allow your body to repair damaged muscles but also allow your mental state to rebuild.
As runners, we often want to run as fast and as long as possible. We want our mileage to be consistently high, and we want to be at our best all of the time. I’ve been there and paid the price in my early twenties. I had multiple injuries (including stress fractures) from running too fast, not enough easy days, or not taking enough rest and recovery days.
Rest, down weeks and taper, can be the hardest weeks to incorporate into training.
When Should You Take a Running Rest Week?
Like there is a different shoe for every runner, there is a different “right time” to take a cutback week for every runner. Generally, every 4-6 weeks, athletes should take time a week of decreased mileage and intensity.
How Much Should You Cut Back?
Again, there is no right or wrong answer. Most recovery weeks cut back anywhere between 25-50% of weekly mileage or 50-90% of the highest mileage weeks. There are some rest weeks, I might reduce the number of days per week I run. Other runs, I cut the miles per week. Usually, I spend a week doing mostly easy runs or maybe even some short cross-training. Either way, I run less and take more rest and recovery.
This is essential during marathon training or big races. If you follow a training plan or have a running coach, you should make sure it includes recovery weeks.
How Can Rest Weeks Prevent Mental Burnout?
Let’s face it, at some point, most runners “burn out.” My burnout came shortly before I got injured. I tried to push through it, but looking back, my body was telling me to rest. I should have rested both physically and mentally. Taking a rest week can take more mental strength than speed workout or long run. We want to return to running or run every day. We want to run fast! We want to improve our vo2 max. But, the rest and recovery are what helps us reach our goals.
Taking a rest week allows yourself to “miss running” and to rebuild the confidence you once had.
Any runner, elite or not, can benefit from taking a rest week or running break It will help recover mentally, physically, and emotionally. You aren’t going to lose fitness from taking a step back from running for a week. In fact, you are going to recover and gain fitness.
Finally, have you subscribed to the LOLZletter? It’s a free newsletter that comes out each Monday. In the newsletter, I share running industry trends and things relevant to the sport.
Question for you:
Do you take recovery weeks or running breaks?