For many runners who have now or will soon run their goal race for the season, the following weeks and months offer an opportunity to take some time off in order to recover.
After any hard effort, but especially a race, the body needs time to physically and mentally recover. To repair muscle damage, restore energy levels, mentally refresh and reflect on how it all went.
The length of time one needs to take for a full recovery will vary by individual and also by the distance and type of your goal race. A general rule is to take 1 day off running (or at least make it a very easy day) for every 2-3K raced. And so while a 5 or 10K may only require a few easy days to recover, a full marathon might take as long as three weeks (or more).
And although you may not be actually running, there are plenty of things you can and should do that will help you become even stronger, faster, fitter and healthier for the next time.
The first thing you should do is take some time to celebrate and appreciate your accomplishments. Regardless of whether you achieved your goals, you should be proud of the time and energy you spent working for them. Use this time to reflect back on the past season including what went well and what could use improvement. Use this insight to help plan your next training cycle including which races you plan to do. Registering for a race can help provide the motivation to commit to next season’s training.
Time off running also leaves more time to devote to oft-ignored areas like strength and flexibility. Cross-training can maintain your hard-earned fitness while putting less repetitive stress on the body. If you’re feeling beaten up or injured, go see a specialist such as a physiotherapist, chiropractor or sports medicine doctor in order to get the attention and the expertise needed to make a full recovery.
Too many runners resume hard training too soon and end up burnt out, injured or uninspired. As important as it is to be physically healthy and ready to run again, it’s also essential to have the drive and the desire to train again.