Most runners know the importance of taking time off after a season of training. Once the goal race is complete (regardless of how it went) time away from running can be refreshing and rejuvenating, both mentally and physically.
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Unfortunately though, we runners have a tendency to rush back into training and set our sights on the next season, the next race or the next important goal. But note that recovery is essential. In order to allow the body and mind the time they need to be ready to train hard again, follow this recovery schedule for the first few weeks following the completion of one training season and before beginning the next.
Feel free to take the week completely off from running, cross-training and all other forms of exercise. In fact, it’s recommended that you do this. Your body and mind need a break from regimented physical activity and this will provide that. Focus on getting quality sleep and eating well– these are the two most important recovery tools you have. Other options to help aid in recovery might include getting a massage, yoga, and brisk walking.
Assuming you feel ready and the aches and pains of the race have subsided, introduce a day or two of whatever exercise you desire. There’s still no need to resume running or training hard and other forms of activity will actually help maintain your fitness while preventing the specific stresses that running places on the body. Continue to focus on getting plenty of sleep and eating well.
Although you’ll likely feel ready to resume running, resist the urge to jump back into full training and take one more week off. This is just to be sure that you’re fully recovered and will also help to re-ignite that spark to start training again. In lieu of running, you can definitely engage in other forms of exercise and cross-training which will continue to maintain your fitness.
Now is also a good time to look back on the past season to assess how it went. In doing this, reflect on what you accomplished and begin to plan what, when and how you’d like to accomplish your training goals going forward.
If desired, you can safely start training again this week. Be sure to limit yourself to no more than four runs per week (allowing for a day off in between) and keep the runs relatively short (20-60 minutes) and easy. If you’re feeling restless, add an extra day or two of other forms of exercise.
It’s been almost a month of little to no running and especially if you have a goal race already planned, you’ll likely want to start training again. Do so cautiously and always making sure you don’t add too much running too soon. Commit to a base building phase (3-4 weeks minimum) of mostly easy mileage before attempting harder efforts and workouts.
For those planning to run an upcoming marathon or half-marathon, check out our Canadian Running training plans.