With the Charlotte Marathon weeks away, I’m excited about the race but feeling the physical toll the marathon training has put on my body.
I ran 16 miles last weekend and hobbled around the office Monday morning. While I know the training isn’t always going to feel great, I following a plan to ensure I’m giving my body the rest it needs to recover.
If you’re competitive, you may be tempted to skip rest days or run additional mileage that isn’t in your plan. I caution you against doing so. Research shows that overtraining can lead to worsened performance, sickness, depression and even eventual running burnout. Muscles need a chance to repair, and that’s only possible when your body is given time to rest and recover.
Here are a few guidelines to ensure your body is getting the rest it needs.
What to expect: Muscles soreness, especially from a long run is to be expected. This soreness should disappear 36 – 48 hours after you run. You should be able to get back to your workout with similar capacity – tempo, time within a few days.
Recommendation: If you are still sore after 48 hours, you probably pushed too hard. Adjust and decrease your mileage, you may have rushed into it too fast. A general rule is that total mileage should not increase by more than 10 percent from the previous week. There are lots of running plans out there, find one that works for you.
Expert tip: Follow a long or difficult run with a low impact workout 24-48 hours after to aid recovery. Do something that keeps your feet on the ground – such as biking or using the elliptical trainer.
What to expect: Running every day puts you at increased risked for overuse injuries such as tendonitis and stress fractures. Your body needs rest days to repair and strengthen muscle tendons. Sleep is vital to healing and strength building.
Recommendations: The vast majority of runners planning for a half or full marathon can accomplish this by running 3 – 4 times per week. Cross-training and rest should also be built into your plan.
Expert Tip: You get stronger when you rest. Aim for 7 – 8 hours of sleep each night especially when training to improve performance.
What to expect: It can be hard to stay motivated and want to follow your plan each day when training for a race. However, if your mood changes and includes excessive weight loss, depression, fatigue or anxiety, you may need a break from training.
Recommendation: When running or training for a longer race make sure to increase your caloric intake to match your increased caloric burn. Weight loss, anxiety, depression, fatigue, sickness, and irritability can be a result of not fueling your body appropriately. If you're experiencing any of these symptoms, talk to a medical provider.
Expert tip: Keep training fun, run with a group or find a partner with similar expectations and performance. Take time off from running and mix it up with another sport or cross-training activity. Plan something fun on a rest day and enjoy the time off from working out.
No pain, no gain may be a phrase you’ve heard, but it’s not a winning performance strategy for runners or any athlete. Listening to your body, and resting, helps you reach performance goals.
Aaron Hewitt PA-C is a physician assistant with the Ortho Carolina Sports Medicine Center. He is a former assistant athletic trainer with the Minnesota Vikings (NFL) and is an orthopedic provider for UNC-Charlotte and Myers Park High School. He also is a physician assistant team lead for Sports Medicine, Spine, Hand & Pediatrics and a clinical and surgical preceptor for Physician Students.