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Boost recovery time to become a stronger runner

Paying attention to rest and recovery now will help you build strength and stay injury-free

If you prioritize rest and recovery all of the time, you won’t need so much of it: or so research suggests. Some runners have a strict off-season, where they only cross-train or go on easy runs during the late fall and winter months. Others run straight through the winter, interspersing their diverse training with dialed-in recovery and rest throughout the year. Here are a few tips on how to maximize rest and recovery throughout racing season, so that you don’t have to take a prolonged break from your sport.

Always take one rest day (minimum) per week

All runners are different, and your rest and recovery needs will vary depending on how much general life stress you have going on. Our bodies don’t log mileage or care about our Strava data–they accumulate stress. This includes mental and emotional stress, so if you have a lot going on in your life, you may need more recovery time. Coach and ultrarunner David Roche advocates for a minimum of one rest day per week, two for athletes with stressful life situations.

Rest for three days at the sign of a potential injury

“It’s better to be 99 per cent too overprotective than one per cent too underprotective,” says Roche. When in doubt, rest. If the signs of potential injury persist after three days, seek a medical opinion. Inserting three days in a row of rest at any point in your training when you’re feeling over-taxed in life or well-being can be an efficient, simple training boost.

You won’t lose fitness in such a short period, and three days is often enough time to catch up on rest or deal with other life issues. By the third day, you’ll probably be itching to pull on your shoes.

Lots of rest after hard efforts and big races

In a tough race, we push our bodies into supercompensation mode. This can be a fantastic way to reach the higher echelons of fitness, but an extraordinary effort involves appropriately matched recovery.

When we run much harder than usual, our bodies get a bit of a shock: supercompensation training is the act of dramatically increasing your training load for a short period of time and then compensating by going very easy and maximizing recovery. Make sure to take full days off, eat a lot of nutritious food (your body needs fuel to recover), and to ease back into training with gentle activities or easy runs.