‘I think you might have forgotten to schedule a rest day for me?’ my text to coach Mary said.
The reply came – ‘no, that’s not a mistake’, followed by an email explaining all the reasons behind the technique she’s using to make me a faster, stronger runner. THIS is the reason I have a coach.
Apparently Mary thinks I’m strong enough at this point in my running journey that I won’t spontaneously combust if I have some 7 days in a row on the plan. Clearly, she trusts my body more than I do.
According to running coach Matt Fitzgerald, runners don’t necessarily become overwhelmed, fatigued or injury prone if they don’t have a regular rest day per week. It’s actually based on tradition rather than scientific evidence that most of us schedule in one day off.
It’s all down to the individual – some people fare better with more rest whilst others thrive with less. This can all depend on the training schedule, their running history (those who have just started running typically need longer for their nervous and endocrine systems to recover than those that have been running for years). However do not neglect rest days completely – according to Fitzgerald, even the fittest, most experienced runners need a rest day at least every four weeks or so.
Gradually building up the mileage, or adding a cross-training session on your previous rest day could be a way of easing into a 7 day running routine. Those extra workouts burn calories, and provide a ‘meaningful aerobic stimulus’ that will build up over the weeks and could add ‘a measurable difference to your peak race performance’.
Currently, my training is on the ‘light side’, according to Mary, (although it’s a lot more than I’ve ever done in previous marathon training cycles), and therefore adding an extra day easy running isn’t going to do any damage. We’re not up to the higher mileage, or intense speed work yet (again, this is relative as I’m definitely a little scared by some of the workouts on my schedule), so tacking on some easy miles can add to my fitness.
The goal over the next few months is to increase consistency with my running, until 45-60 min runs are no biggie (I still feel chuffed with every 6 mile run I knock out!). According to Mary, running is like building a house; you need a solid foundation first, that strong aerobic base needs to be developed before adding the aggressive speed work. We’re doing this not with junk miles, but with easy recovery runs for aerobic benefits (not to mention the happy endorphins that come with fun runs), but we’re building mitochondria. More mitochondria = more ATP/energy = increased ability to create more energy during intense runs.
As Mary put it ‘So, with easy runs, we’re making a big ole foundation, so that once we get to the fast stuff, you can build a mansion (PRs) instead of a shack (no PRs).’
Ultimately, it’s important to listen to your body, if you think psychologically or physically you need that rest day, then it’s crucial that you take it. If running/training seven days a week doesn’t fit into your life, workout schedule or you’re just exhausted, then take a day off. There’s no need to hammer yourself into the ground, however you may also not need to take a rest day just for the sake of it.
P.S I’m trying out Hoka One One here in New Zealand – full review coming soon!