Training for spring marathons is reaching that critical station. The long runs are reaching their peak just as the days are getting longer. It might be tempting to skip on the rest days, to make the most of your increasing fitness. You’ll be missing a trick.
Most training plans work on the basis of progressive overload. Rest days are scheduled into the programme to enable the body to capitalise on the gradual increase in the effort. Recovery days are when the body deals with the metabolic consequences of your training efforts. This includes managing the inflammation and fibre damage within the muscle tissue and enabling the immune system to maintain its operational capacity.
Whilst taking some downtime may feel completely against the grain, it is the time that your training gains are consolidated, l time to reduce the effects of stress that the training sessions have generated. In the grand scheme of things, recovery days improve the overall quality of the programme overall.
This is especially the case if you have a niggling ache or pain that you have tried to pass off as nothing to worry about. Taking a rest day when you are feeling slightly run down could prevent something developing into a much more serious situation that would need far more down time to rectify.
Why you need those rest days…
Muscles take a pounding when running – that’s obvious. As you progress through each training block in your plan, you will be accumulating inflammation and cellular damage both of which reduce your capacity to generate power and stamina. Pile further training on top and you will notice a point at which your performance falls away. Beyond this point, you are into overtraining territory – in fact, further training will be counterproductive. Acknowledging the rest days in your programme and giving yourself permission to take them will allow your body to capitalise on your training effort and enable you to train again, stronger than before.
Even if you don’t feel sore, the cellular damage that training wreaks on your body will still be present in your system. The markers of skeletal and cardiac tissue damage will be present in the blood stream; this is what you body’s lymphatic and other waste processing systems are designed to handle. Continuing to heap further need on those systems by not taking those rest days where indicated, will only backfire, particularly as they are also integral to you immune system.
By overloading the lymphatic system, the capacity of this key component of your immune system to perform all it’s roles becomes compromised. This leads to one of the key indicators of overtraining, the common cold or similar viral infection. Suddenly a skipped rest day has turned into a far longer layoff.
So let yourself take those rest days. They are as important as your training days in the overall scheme of things. What to do on a rest day? That’s the next post.