Generally, when we talk about sufficient rest from running, we are talking about getting off the feet as much as possible and running easily between hard workouts. With the harder sessions triggering hormonal responses (think: growth hormone), down time allows your body to handle necessary repairs and improve your fitness.
The problem is that it’s not a perfectly linear system. You can’t just keep getting better and better and better ad infinitum. There comes a point where the body needs a true recovery, a chance to rest and consolidate all the gains of the previous training. Sometimes these periods happen against our will, like in the case of an injury or illness. Straining your calf may sideline you in the short-term, but three weeks later you feel better rested and more energetic than before.
Ideally, you would skip a forced layoff and have a designated rest period in mind. It could be after a goal race or during a time of year when the weather is worst (hello, February in New England!). Besides offering a respite from the mental stress of training, this break offers an opportunity for you to fully “absorb” the training, as the great Australian marathon Rob De Castella phrased it. This is the chance for supercompensation to go into overdrive. Although some short-term fitness gains may be lost in the process, the longer-term picture is rosier for it.
How to Rest From Running
How you rest is determined by your long-term goals, personality type and motivation. A classic Type B personality may be happy for a respite and take the opportunity to play around with other hobbies during the break. A Type A with a big race a few months out might go stir crazy in such a scenario and crave the goal-oriented structure that running provides. With that in mind, here are several different ways to recover after a long season.