Sunday, 7 October 2012

The 30 day challenge - Day 7. Rest and relaxation

Whilst trying to complete this 30-day challenge in 30 days, it seems I've given myself yet another task to keep my mind 'on' each day, when I know deep down the benefits of rest, both for sport and life in general. Perhaps without following each to the letter :-)

It got me thinking about how to build in 'active rest' to an athletes schedules. In endurance, whether running, cycling, triathlon or whatever, there is always a taper period to let your body recuperate after a punishing training schedule before your main event. Keeping athletes to stick to cutting back hours of exercise can be problematic for coaches and psychologists with their charges, as they don't know quite what to do with themselves when they've ordinarily 'built up' for the previous few months.

My friend and running partner Enrique recently put me on to this article in Runners World that  advocated cutting down miles but throwing in some more quick bursts of speed to the final week before races, which I adhered to prior to Bristol. I liked it as it felt like I was ticking over and could feel how good the benefits of training had been, so pre-race I knew I could deliver. But as I said in Day 4 of this challenge (putting yourself in the best mental state), its really important to try and relax the body and brain with more sleep. As a night owl I naturally fight against this but know it does help the body repair and helps with producing better performances. For athletes in training, 7 to 8 hours a night sleep is recommended to let the body repair properly.

But what I want to put out there to readers is how long should you allow for recovery after races? There is a general rule of thumb that for a marathon to leave running for a month. I definitely like a fortnight off, but find a month gets me too twitchy. Equally for a half marathon, does the recovery time halve? I don't necessarily feel that myself, and know that the body is not pushed anywhere near to the same level of effort as when a full endurance race is run.

Generally I find that its best to ease yourself back to different exercise that allows you to experience the nice feeling of a workout without the same pressure on joints, sore muscles and the like. So this week, one full week after a half marathon and a couple of lightish 6 milers, I will be swimming, cycling and doing yoga and stretches. As a trainee sport masseur I really feel I need to know this information in more depth, but know that what the 'right advice' is will differ from person to person.

However, for those of you who may push themselves hard across the different endurance disciplines, what do you do? How long do you leave exercise?/breaking back into less intense workouts?
Do you have tips and advice (preferably evidence based!) that you want to share?



Stu Holliday said...

After posting this yesterday, I got feedback from Paul Martelletti (@marders) on Twitter. He replied to the question of how much time to rest after races thus:

Paul Martelletti ‏@marders

@stuholliday rule of thumb 1 day per mile raced. I assume that means until u r fully recovered as u can still run obviously!

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