Rest Days

Some people and coaches swear by regularly scheduled rest days to keep a runner going without injury. Others say listen to your body and rest when it says rest. Most runners are loathed to take a rest day, or if they do, they want to “make up” for it the next day. What does it mean to take a rest day, reduced running, no running, no activity? Runners, especially ultrarunners, are good at pushing through being tired or a minor injury which is good and it is not good. So what’s a runner to do?

Rest days can be harder to take or convince yourself to take and complete, than a hard workout. Runners don’t want to miss out on a run and they don’t want to fall behind in training. Rest is for the weak, right? wrong. Rest is when the body repairs itself and becomes stronger. It is not only a rest for your body but a rest for your mind.

When we push our body everyday or through multiple challenging workouts during a week, we are breaking down the tissues in our legs and other places. We are causing micro tears and strains. This is good because it forces the body to heal and come back stronger. It pushes are mental limits so we can draw upon that during long events.

Having a regularly scheduled rest day each week or once every ten days, is usually the best approach because then there is no question whether or not you should rest. If the strategy is to rest when your body says to rest, then you are more likely to keep pushing possibly into an injury aka forced rest, which is the last thing a runner wants.

Another time to rest is whenever you feel an injury coming on, or if you are facing major stressors in other areas of your life that are out of the ordinary. Taking 1-3 days when you get that feeling somewhere that something isn’t right and you may have the start of an injury, is better than running through it and running into an injury that could take you out for a week or more. When you have major stress in your life, that is out of the ordinary, that stress reduces your bodies ability to recover between workouts and thus puts you at a high risk of injury.

In addition to the one day a week as a rest day, taking a “rest week” is another good way to keep running and remain injury free. This is especially true if you are building miles or increasing the stress on your body through challenging workouts. A rest week does not mean taking a full week off of running, although it could. Reducing your workout load by about 20 to 25% for a week is a rest week. This means volume and intensity. If you are especially injury prone, it could mean using an alternative workout for the week such as pool running or the elliptical trainer. Even riding a bike would be fine. Rest weeks are ideally taken every three to four weeks.

Taking a rest day once a week and a rest week every 3-4 weeks is not going to put you behind on your training. It may push you to the next level. It won’t impact your speed or endurance in a negative way. Neither will taking three days off when you feel that something is wonky. It can be a mental challenge to take a rest day, and you may feel antsy if this is the case, go for a easy walk (not ten miles) for twenty to thirty minutes.

Think of rest days as recovery and rebuild days.

Happy and healthy running!

First Ultra?

I love running and I want everyone else to love running, so I try to make this crazy ultrarunning thing easier for others to wrap their minds around and jump in. Here are my eight quick tips for runners who want to make the leap to ultrarunning:

  1. Physical Training.

Training must be a priority and it must be consistent. You don’t have to run a hundred miles a week to be an ultrarunner. Many ultrarunners run 60 miles a week and complete 100-milers. Your training does need to be race specific. If the race has mountains, you train mountains. If the race is flat, you train flat. If it’s going to be hot, run in the heat. If you’ll run through the night, train in the dark.  Weekly long runs, up to 20-30 miles, are a must. Back-to-Back runs should be done at least a few times throughout your training. Speed work is good to include, but not necessary. Be careful, speed increases your risk of injury.

  1. Mental training.

In ultrarunning, training your mind is as important as training your body. There will be dark times during the race where you question your ability to go on. Positive self-talk, mantras, and remembering how you’ve overcome other difficult times can get you through them. My favorite is, no matter how dark it gets, the sun always rises.

  1. Rest.

An injury is the last thing you want to have as you near your goal race. Taking a rest week every fourth week by cutting your miles back by 20%, will decrease your risk of injury and help build your endurance and strength. Listen to your body and take a rest day when needed. It’s better to take a break early in training than push through and have it get worse and force you to rest late in training.

  1. Strength training.

It’s more important to add strength training than to cross train or to stretch. Core and hip strength are critical to maintaining your running form and preventing injuries. Two to three days a week is enough. If you have time add in squats and deadlifts with low repetitions(4-5) and maximum weight 4-5 days a week.

  1. Nutrition plan.

Plan what you’re going to eat during your race. If you’re going to take stuff from the aid station, know what’s there. Train with what you plan to use in the race (this goes for gear/clothes too). Relying on gels and chews is not enough for most ultrarunners. Train with solid foods that are easy to digest, high in carbs, low in protein and low in fiber. Use caffeine strategically. Stop using caffeine a month before the race, so you can use it to stay alert during the night portions of the race.

Know your hydration needs. Drinking to thirst isn’t enough during an ultra and electrolytes are a must.There are a lot of sports drinks out there, find one that works for you or use salt capsules. Pack enough for the whole race in your drop bags and with your crew.

  1. Body Functioning issues.

Plan for dealing with blisters, vomiting, diarrhea, dehydration, nausea, cramps, aches, and general pain. We all hope we don’t have to deal with these issues, but if you’re caught unprepared they can ruin your race. I keep a blister kit with my crew and a small one in my hydration pack. I also have ginger chews, antacids, Imodium, and Icy Hot. I avoid any pain medication.

  1. Crew/pacers.

Chose happy supportive people who won’t let you back out of your goals, even if you’re crying and limping. Family and spouses are not always the best for this. Finding crew and pacers who have experience with ultrarunning is going to be very helpful to you. If you don’t have anyone with experience, you’re going to need to educate them as best you can. See my page on the Ultra crew.

  1. TAPER wisely.

Trust in your training.

Adjust your calorie intake to match your decreased training.

Perfect your race day strategy.

Embrace the “free” time.

Rest and recover.

Respect for the Game

respect

There are a lot facets to the term, “respect for the game,” as applied to ultrarunning.

Respect the course in all ways. The obvious leave no trace. If you drop something, pick it up. If you see something someone else has dropped, pick it up. The not so obvious form of course respect is what Mother Nature can dish out during these events. Be prepared for the unexpected and train adequately for the terrain you will be crossing. Mother Nature has other children out there in the mountains too. Be aware of what you could come across, moose, mountain lion, bears and such. It’s a good idea to know what to do when you do see them.

Respect for all the other runners. I hate to see runners being rude to one another. We’re one tribe. Call out when you are approaching other’s from behind. If you hear someone call out, move over as much as you can. Watch out for one another out there, stop and offer help if you see another runner who is in need, stop and see if you can help. This is just one of the things that I love about trail runners. If you’re bent over on the side of the trail, the next runner will ask if you’re okay, and the next, and the next.

Respect for volunteers and race staff. Remember no one has to be out there for you. The race director and the staff are there because they love the sport. They love to see people succeed. They love to watch the strength and tenacity of the runners. It takes an inordinate amount of organization and time to put on an event that spans fifty to one hundred miles. Many volunteers are out there year after year. So, even when you are hurting and feel like you’re going to die, smile at volunteers and staff and say thank you with your whole heart.

Respect for your crew and pacers. These people are out there solely for you. They aren’t getting paid. They are just there because they care about you and want to see you achieve your goals. They are the people who make or break your run. The work they put into helping you is huge. They are out there all night and day. They deal with things you will never know about (because you have enough on your mind). They cater to your every need even when you’re smelly and have all sorts of bodily functioning issues. They brave the weather and the boredom of waiting for you.

Respect for yourself. You’ve put a lot of time and sweat into getting to race day. You’ve spent hours planning and organizing to make it the most successful race possible. Anything can happen out there. Even the elite runners have bad days and drop out of races. If something goes wrong, learn from it rather than beat yourself up over not meeting your own expectations. Finally, respect your body and give it the rest it needs to become stronger.