Learning When to Rest

recovery It’s easy to work hard. You just grit your teeth and go. The real work is learning when to stop, to slam down on the breaks and just chill. This is especially true for runners. Somehow, it gets in our heads that rest means loosing fitness. Even though we might feel a little ache in our hips, we keep going to get that next PR or that further distance. This has been a really hard thing to learn for myself. I tend to ignore the little aches and pains in my body and just go further and faster. This practice costed me a half marathon back in the fall and I refuse to let that happen again.

In August, I spent most of the month in Alaska on a biological field station in the North Slope (check out the pic! It’s super pretty there!).

This is Toolik Field Station. There are some awesome mountains there, and it is a generally pretty place.

This is Toolik Field Station. There are some awesome mountains there, and it is a generally pretty place.

The field station is small and you can’t always get away to go for a run. There is also has unlimited candy and rather buttery food. I spent the month not running, but instead eating a lot. I gained 7 pounds and lost a whole lot of fitness. Now, I have never struggled with weight, so as soon as I came home and started eating normally again, those 7 pounds came right off. The problem was, I hadn’t kept up my base milage that I had been working a year to get. Before I left for Alaska I was running about 25 miles a week, so when I got back to Indiana, I just went back to 25 miles per week.

This is my husband and I on top of a mountain in Alaska. Toolik Biological Field Station is a few miles behind us.

This is my husband and I on top of a mountain in Alaska. Toolik Biological Field Station is a few miles behind us.

I had my eyes on a half marathon in October, which would have worked out pretty well with my schedule. A few of my friends were running it, so I figured, I could work up to it without too much trouble. I had also signed up for a challenging trail race in southern Indiana to encourage me to run while I was in Alaska (clearly that didn’t work out too well). The race was only a 10k, but it was a pain. It was crazy hilly and just generally kicked my butt. I would have been ok had I stopped there… but the next day, I decided to go for a 9 mile run to make sure I could commit to the half distance. By the end of it, I had some pretty intense IT band pain and I knew that Half Marathon was not going to happen. I had needed a rest day more than I knew.

The opportunity to overdo things again came this week. Currently, I am training for a Half Marathon, and although I have been told I am ready for it, in my mind, I’m not. I had an 11 mile long run scheduled for Sunday, but Indiana was hit by a massive blizzard. I tried to do the run, but only made it 5.56 miles before I had to call it off (the snow was up to my knees in some places). I figured I would just go for a do-over the next day, but when I woke up I was achey and sore from running through the piles of snow. Instead of going on the run, I did some yoga and really targeted my sore areas. The next day, I woke up feeling great. I went for my long run that morning feeling awesome! That extra rest had made a huge difference for me, both by keeping me healthy, and also by making my run simply more enjoyable.

The important thing is to really listen to your body. I know I always want to go hard, but pulling back is just as important (if not more). It was a hard lesson to learn, but I think I’ve got it now.

How many days per week do you run? Do you sometimes take rest days even when they are not scheduled? 

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