Last Friday I was absolutely cream crackered, I’ve been in a hard training phase and I feel like I’m running well off it. However last week I started to feel that my body was getting tired. I looked at the training I’ve been undertaking for the previous weeks and, as planned, it’s seen my long runs increasing in distance, the pace increasing and the intensity of my quality runs has increased. Understandably the overall effect has been to tire out my muscles. I’ve been doing some intensive training on an uneven grass surface and this has brought on aches around my ankles and knee. Non of this appears to be a problem but it’s time to take a little step back, ease off, allow my body to rebuild and come back ready for more intensity. So I made the decision to take a week off.
Now I should explain that a week off in Roger Alsopland does not mean a week sat on the sofa watching the sport, though I have to admit to having overdosed on that last weekend – and who can blame me, with the Tour de France, F1 German GP and the MotoGP. No a week off for me means a week off high intensity training. In fact it actually means 5 days off. I’ll still run but the runs will be steady, I’ll notice things that pass me by when I’m in full flight. I’ll still do my kettlebell exercises but I’ll do less sets and I’ll still work on my abs.
I was going to start my break last Friday but today (Tuesday) we’ve got the painters in and there’s a requirement for me to be here, some of the time at least, so a perfect time to ease off. Of course this meant that I had to run hard on Saturday and Monday and boy was that a struggle, plus I’m booked in for a session with Ray tonight and now Ray’s getting fitter that means the session gets harder for me. But come tomorrow morning, my break officially begins, and I’m feeling good already.
The other thing that’s tired me out a bit is that I took delivery of another kettlebell last week. I decided to jump straight up to a 12kg and yes, I know that’s miniscule to all the big strong guys and gals who use much bigger ones, but this is me, have you seen me, I’m the skinny guy in the Dennis the Menace singlet (mind you that could be any of Herne Hill Harriers distance runners, except ALG). So I’ve jumped from a 7.5kg kettle to a 12kg one and what a difference. I had fair warning, watching the poor post woman deliver it to my door, but I was keen to use it as soon as I could and threw it, pretty literally, into my regular session. And that’s when I realised what a difference 4.5kg makes. Actually the exercises weren’t a problem, I managed them ok, though I was aware of the extra weight, it was just the effect it had on my inner thighs for the next 3 days.
But this blog’s about resting and recovery, not kettlebells. Rest is important, for the body to recover, whatever the exercise. If you continue to train at a high level you’ll end up getting injured. Text books will advise you to rest the day after a workout, but generally that won’t mean complete rest. The way weight training generally works is that you will work certain body parts one day and whilst they are being rested you work other body parts. But you also need rest between sets, which should vary in length depending on whether you are building strength, muscle bulk or endurance.
As I’ve just mentioned rest does not mean that you should slob about, though if that is your preference so be it, in between heavy weight lifting you should be keeping your muscles working by gently stretching them. As a runner we would generally train hard on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays with steady runs on the other days. Once again I fly in the face of convention by training hard on Mondays and Wednesdays, it just suits me.
There are some people who never seem to take a day off from running, most notably Ron Hill, who even runs when injured. My old training partner, Charlie Dickinson, once told me he ran every day. At the time I was running well and found it hard to believe he wasn’t affected by constant training, but it affects us all in different ways. I myself always took Friday off. When I was a Mon-Fri worker this worked well as I could get into a regular pattern, it also meant I effectively gave myself a 3 day weekend; Mon-Thurs = work and train, Fri = work only, Sat-Sun = train only. However that all went up the spout when I moved into a shift work role. Now I’m training other people I don’t always get the chance to rest completely as I run or exercise with my clients, but I treat that as active recovery.
Active recovery is doing an activity different to what you would do on a hard day. So an easy run will help you recover better than doing nothing, or you might choose to go for a bike ride or take part in some other activity. It will help you recover, as long as you don’t give it the same intensity which you give to your main sport. And that’s where it’s all about finding the balance.
Obviously these are general conventions and there are people, who are well trained, who can push themselves day after day, take the Tour de France as an example, but even they will need a rest at some time. I myself sometimes train hard every day on holiday, but I do this by training less time or distance, e.g. I may do 25 minutes of intensive training each day instead of an hour one day of high intensity and an hour of easy work the next.
To become the best it’s not just about how you train but also about how you rest.
Not only was I worn out but I was noticing my shoes were starting to feel a little less cushioned. I keep my trainers a long time but that’s because I use a different pair for different sessions, irrespective of what some conventions say – see I’m doing it again. I wear adidas supernovas for my intensive training, I have done since I bought a pair for the 2003 London Marathon. Where do I go when I need a new pair of trainers, I go to Belgrave Harriers, who still have some stock of older trainers from adidas. They no longer have my size as I just bought the last two pairs so I’ll be shopping around again in a few months. I also purchased another Herne Hill Harriers singlet, this time from Herne Hill Harriers, Belgrave don’t stock them. This one is on it’s way to New Zealand where my old mate Paul Coughlan will be wearing it. Paul is (or at least was) a distance runner, but he’s not skinny.
Last week they ran Pennington Flash the opposite way round, it would be interesting to see how that went. I was intending to turn up but both myself and Carole were exhausted we decided not to bother. Ray wasn’t available anyway so it wouldn’t have had the same picnic excursion feel about it. I don’t know when I’ll be back there next but I have just entered another 10k, I need to start setting some good times if I’m going to be considered for the England squad.