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Rest: A Neglected (but Essential) Training Component!

I’ve been meaning to do a post on Mo Farah ever since it was announced that he was going into the castle this year. This is because I feel he is leading by an example that a lot of runners could learn from – and no, I’m not saying you should all apply to go on I’m A Celebrity…

Rather, it’s about a subject I keep coming back to, which is the reluctance of most to rest, even in the face of injury whereby a lot of runners carry on regardless, despite the pain and the fact that deep down, they probably know they shouldn’t continue. After all, one of the most common conversations that go on at running clubs is individuals complaining of their various ailments, often accompanied by the clearly flawed advice of ‘just run through it’, or ‘just rest it for a couple of days and it will be fine’, which clearly indicates a lack of understanding of how the body works and the implications of the situation.

Rest is something many runners do not do enough of...

But that’s another subject for another blog post, as what I’m mainly referring to here is the reluctance to rest without the presence of injury, and yes, you read that correctly – we SHOULD rest when not injured, despite popular habit. Last year, I wrote another blog on this, which I will leave the link to below. I thought however I would write another one to not only reiterate the message which clearly needs to be constantly reinforced, but also to update it to reflect the current circumstances.

Rest is an important addition to ANY training regime, as it is essential to allow your body to recover from the demand you are placing on it. To put it simply, training is a repetitive cycle of breakdown and recovery – in order to improve your ability to perform sport/exercise, you train and break down your soft tissues, so you essentially do damage to yourself. The body then instigates improvement through various training adaptations (these specific changes will depend upon what type of exercise you are doing e.g. endurance, explosive power, etc) so that next time your body is placed under this stress, it is better able to cope with this demand. However, this adaptation stages requires rest, to heal the damage you’ve done to the soft tissue. Therefore, skip this step, and you’ve just created a continuous cycle of breakdown with no recovery, and the result? Sooner or later you will suffer an injury…

"Rest is an important addition to ANY training regime, as it is essential to allow your body to recover from the demand you are placing on it..."

But of course, along with having plenty of rest on a week to week basis, at various times of the year (which will tend to differ depending upon what sport you do, and when your major events are) it is necessary to rest for AT LEAST a week after a major event such as a marathon or at the end of a competition season, but preferably for two weeks. This is where people start giving me dodgy looks as if I’ve just suddenly starting speaking in a foreign language mid-conversation, but it’s true! If you don’t believe me, check out the second link below which is an interview with Paula Radcliffe (albeit slightly dated), where she explains her habit of having two weeks complete rest after a marathon, followed by a third week of lighter training.

"it is necessary to rest for AT LEAST a week after a major event such as a marathon or at the end of a competition season"

Going back to my earlier point about Mo, if you haven’t already worked it out, this is exactly what he is doing with I’m A Celebrity! He’s just been in the castle for three weeks, and whilst he was in there not once did I hear him complain that he’s not been able to go for a run. He obviously understands the importance of rest, and the fact that contrary to popular belief, it’s not going to do him any harm. Let’s bear in mind that Mo is a very high-level athlete, and if even he can resist the urge to train for a while, so can you! In fact, I speculate that one of the reasons he did the show in the first place was probably because there are no races on due to the pandemic. So as a club runner, why run yourself into the ground with nothing to train for and no clubs to go to? (excuse the pun). There’s also not the burden of having to train through/return from injury to maintain performance to retain money from sponsorship, so why place so much pressure on yourself to keep going so hard during lockdown? Ask yourself, when was the last time you had at least one-week complete rest from running? Forced rest due to injury, illness, or self-isolation doesn’t count, because these things aren’t planned!

I’m not saying don’t run etc, but to wrap this up into my main point, maybe it might be better just to do a bit of running to keep ticking over, and whilst running clubs and races are suspended for the foreseeable, why not dedicate some extra time to things you know you typically don’t do enough of, such as strength training, technical work, and booking in for one of my maintenance massages or full-body gait analysis sessions? I.e. things that are going to make you in a better runner!

With very few events taking place, there has been no better opportunity to rest




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