What Does Your Body Really Need?
This was my recovery week (Yay!) and boy did I need it. After racing the Grand-further 25km Mountain race last weekend (in which I felt all 4200ft of elevation gain the following days), my body was screaming for a break. I took the following day off (as planned) and it was honestly difficult to lift my legs out of the bed. Monday I was supposed to do 8 miles easy (usually 10), but I swapped it out for another rest day. I can hear the screams of horror now, “2 days of rest, are you crazy?” Well actually I didn’t take a complete rest, I manage to work in a Yoga routine I randomly found on YouTube (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=08zfKssmxyM), which came at great amusement to my wife as I posed around the living room. It did make me realize I need to do more stretching because I felt great after it.
Tuesday I got my 8 miles easy effort run in, with the quads still feeling sore and even jumped on the bike later that evening for 20min to try and speed up the recovery process and flush the legs out. Wednesday I had a mini Fartlek workout planned out that was meant to be low intensity, but I decided to scrap that and keep the miles easy as this recovery was taking longer than anticipated and I knew this is what my body needed. Thursday and Friday I got some more easy miles in and my legs actually started feeling like part of my body again. Saturday I got my long run in at a relaxed effort, and although a slight mix up in route plans meant I ran 2 miles more than planned, the effort felt comfortable.
Sunday was a challenging day. I had 7 miles planned, but this was my “wife’s weekend” with her girlfriends in town and staying over (I look forward to my weekend of fun with Around the Crown this weekend!), it meant that I was on Daddy daycare duty all morning. By the time I could get out the house at 10:45am, the temps had ramped up and the thought of a run just didn’t seem like fun. I almost went for it because the plan called for 7miles and I’d already taken 2 rest days and dropped my workout and I needed to keep my mileage up and make sure my Strava graph looked great. Thankfully I took a moment to pause and reflect on the purpose of the week, a recovery week.
I didn’t need this run, I needed to recover. I decided to swap out the running shoes for some pedals and hoped on the bike with my son, Sebby on the back, and went for a ride along the greenway for a similar duration it would have taken me to run 7miles. It was perfect and we had a great time being outdoors together being active, something I’m conscious of making visible to my children. Physically and emotionally I felt so much better after it, this was exactly what I needed.
Did I miss out on some gains by not running? Possibly, cycling compliments your run training well and is a good replacement, but it doesn’t quite deliver the same benefits as running does, but it’s pretty close in terms of aerobic benefits. Did my extra rest days make me slower? Maybe short term, but long term my legs will feel fresher which will likely help me run stronger in the weeks that are focused on building fitness and allow me to be more consistent in my training.
The important point is that this is what I believe my body needed at this moment on this week. I rarely miss a run, but when I do I feel confident I’m making the right choice for the bigger goal (to perform well on race day). It’s okay to add in a rest day now and again (if it’s every few weeks, then maybe that needs to be addressed), and it’s okay to switch out a run for a cycle instead as long as it’s not every week (again, frequency is key here).
If you find that your are missing runs, or frequently replacing them with a cycle, then a conversation needs to be had about adjusting your plan so that your weekly goals are achievable and your plan is a good fit for your life schedule. Do I want you to miss runs and cycle instead? No, but I want you to know that you do have that option there if you need it. A plan is great, but it’s important to listen to your body too.