When To Back Off
All runners wish they had the ability to train hard 365 days a year. Taking downtime after a race or needing to schedule a rest week in the middle of a training cycle isn’t a runner’s idea of a great time. However, recovery is essential to both short-term and long-term progression. Sometimes, a bad workout is your body’s way of letting you know that it needs some extended recovery time or a “down week” in training.
The difference between accumulated fatigue and the body signaling for a down week is that you’ll have a few bad workouts in a row when you need a down week. Sometimes, it may not even be that terrible of a workout, but rather a few mediocre performances in a row. When this happens, you’ve crossed over that delicate line between optimal training and fatigue, and you need an extended recovery period to get back on track.
If you have two or three bad or mediocre workouts in a row, take a look back at your training log and locate the last time you had at least 4-5 very easy training days or a scheduled down week. If you have to go back 4 weeks or longer to find your last recovery week, your body is telling you that it’s time to take a little extra recovery.
What to do:
You need to have the courage and mental toughness to take a recovery week and realize it’s only going to make you a better runner in the long-term. This is easy advice to dispense in an article, but it’s difficult for many runners to swallow. However, the legendary coach Alberto Salazar sums it up perfectly:
“You’ve got to have the mental toughness and confidence in yourself where you believe that you can take those days off and you can recover and you can run great. A lot of what we see in athletes that just train all the time and never give themselves adequate recovery is often portrayed as toughness. What I’ve realized over the years is it really is a weakness. It’s an insecurity that you’re not good enough to recover like other athletes: I’m not good enough to do that; I need to keep training; I can’t take time off; I can’t take easy days.”
Don’t fall into the same trap and have the courage and sensibility to give your body a down week when it’s clearly telling you it’s needed. In the long-term, you’ll be a much better runner.
Having a bad workout is tough no matter how you look at it. However, if you take the time to examine your training log, identify the potential issue, and then have the courage to take the necessary steps to get yourself back on track, that one bad workout will remain a mere blip in the training cycle.