Why You Should Plan Rest After Goal Races

It’s been a month since I ran the California International Marathon… and in that time I’ve taken 16 complete rest days, cross trained twice, and run a total of 81 miles (ie. the same amount of miles that I ran per WEEK during the height of marathon training.)

I absolutely needed and loved this break so as the weeks passed I saw many runners that had raced with me were back to running – some even doing workout already! This surprised me because I know how important rest is following a hard training cycle. Over the years I’ve learned from my past mistakes of jumping back into training too soon after a goal race and so I’m really passionate about sharing what I know about rest and recovery with other runners… I see way too many runners running their easy days too hard and not enough runners taking adequate rest! Running too hard on easy days is a topic for another day but today I wanted to touch on planned rest after a goal race.   


Planning Cycles of Training/Racing & Rest


Rest is soooooo important for runners and training and racing in cycles is extremely important to produce the desired results. This came so naturally to me in college – train and race cross country, take a 2 week break, train and race track, take a 2 week break, base build during the summer, repeat x 4. After college I struggled with planning mesocycles for myself and sticking to them. I would choose a goal race, run it, and if I did good I was amped on my training and kept trying to train and race hard, and if I did bad I wanted redemption and would train and race hard. I knew the importance of rest but I just couldn’t sort out how to do things the right way when the seasons weren’t predetermined for me. I am so glad to have found my current coach because he has guided me in creating training/racing seasons for myself and my results this past year are evidence that training and resting in cycles is the way to run PRs.

after my half marathon PR at the LA RnR Half

So, how do I create my training/racing cycle of a year?

Each year you can fit in 2 or 3 mesocycles of training – culminating in one goal race each cycle. I prefer to do two cycles since that’s what I’ve been doing since college. In 2018 my mesocycles are January-June track/half marathon focused – summer down time – August-December marathon build up. I would recommend sitting down and choosing 2 or 3 goal races for the year, spaced relatively evenly apart and then plan your training around that, allowing for 1-2 weeks off after each goal race (less time for shorter races, more time for longer one). Personally, if I were to do 2 marathons in one year I would definitely space them ~6 months apart because rolling from one marathon cycle into another is just not feasible for me. 

Why is Rest So Important?

It gives you the chance to enjoy other things that you love.

Yes, we all love running but there are so many other things to enjoy in life! When I am in serious training I don’t have much time or energy left to do anything besides the necessary. During this month off/of downtime Henri and I went out to a late-night dinner/movie date (I’m talking didn’t get home until past midnight late! ha), we went on family hikes, I slept in, I got to spend time with family and friends, we hosted Lavinia’s cousins for a slumber party and one night Henri and I ate a charcuterie board for dinner šŸ˜€

Biggest perk of my most recent running down-time… a week long visit home!

It reduces the risk of over training and injury.

During our training cycles we are constantly beating up our bodies. In order recovery correctly and come back stronger we need to give our body a chance to rest and repair all of the damage that we did to it over the last 12-20 weeks. The easiest way to avoid injury and over training is to take scheduled rest/down time throughout the year. Wouldn’t you rather take planned rest than push through cycle after cycle and have to take unplanned rest in the middle of an important training cycle? 

Planned rest allows your body to regroup for the next leap forward – check out the diagram below. The graph on the left shows the “dips” in fitness resulting from planned breaks followed by an even bigger improvement in fitness/performance!

The mental break is great for your long-term motivation. 

PLEASE tell me I’m not the only runner that has rolled from one training cycle to another and eventually got burnt out, not necessarily physically but mentally! We can only stay focused and dedicated to serious training for a certain amount of time without a mental break. It takes a lot out of you to train for a marathon! I can’t tell you how many times during my CIM build-up I got myself out of bed by counting down how many more early, Sunday morning long runs I had to get through. Taking time off after a race frees your mind from the stresses of training and racing – and you’ll come back with a renewed outlook on and appreciation running!

lots of baby/puppy snuggles get to happen during rest month!

It gives you time to reflect on your past season and dream about your future goals

In the middle of intense training I’m just plugging along, getting through one day and workout at a time. When I take a little break I get to appreciate the training I just completed and have the chance to look ahead to the next training cycle and dream about what goals I want to accomplish next. 

What exactly do I do during a running break?

NOTHING! I generally take 2 week breaks after my big training cycles and for the first week I don’t do a dang thing – I sleep in, eat yummy foods, stay up late, read, watch lots of TV, etc. Sometimes, if I’m feeling like it the second week I’ll do a little bit of cross training but I don’t run a step for 2 weeks. Don’t worry, it takes 7-14 days for your fitness to start declining, so taking a week or two off after that marathon isn’t going to hurt you at all in the long run. 

After CIM I spent 2 weeks bumming around like these lazy pups šŸ˜‰

Still need some convincing?

Don’t just take it from me…

Elite runner Tina Muir says her planned breaks are one of her secrets to success and she thinks you need planned breaks too!

Truth time – are you good about taking planned rest?
What do you enjoy most about planned time off from running? 

2 thoughts on “Why You Should Plan Rest After Goal Races”

  • I’ve been following your blog for a little while, and just wanted to say I love your perspective on rest and training in general! I see a lot of runners who take up the sport after college really struggle to approach training cycles in the way you’re describing, but it’s so important if we want the peaks to be as high as they possibly can be. I didn’t start running until after college myself, but I try to learn as much as I can from my friends who did have that experience with structured training mesocycles. Congratulations on your amazing results in 2017 and I look forward to following along this year! šŸ™‚

    • Thanks Kate! I’m glad to serve as a good example – especially after failing at it for a few years out of college. That’s awesome that you’ve been able to implement mesocycles and rest into your training and I best you’re seeing the benefits of it! Good luck in your training and races this year!

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