Running Rut

Ok, I wouldn’t call it a rut exactly. It’s been one month since the MCM–a race that was not my finest, btw (I swear I’m finally doing a recap on Monday!)–and my running has not been that impressive. Sure, I went to a fitness retreat with my sister and did some awesome hiking at Zion, but long runs have been basically non-existent for me in the past 4 weeks.

proof that I actually did run the MCM ;-) See how I look tired here at mile 3...

proof that I actually did run the MCM 😉 See how I look tired here at mile 3…

...but am all smiles at mile 18. weirdo

…but am all smiles at mile 18. weirdo

It’s not that I don’t want to run. I do. I have lost a bit of motivation to run long but I have been running short (that counts for something right?). We’re talking 3-4 miles a day, 5-6 days a week. I’ve especially liked mixing in circuit training. It’s been going something like this

Run 1.5 miles

Squats, leg press

Run .5 miles

Hip Abductor, quads

Run .5 miles 

Calves, PT exercises

Run .5 miles

Sit-ups

And ever other day I switch up the circuit so one day it’ll be arms and the next legs. Nothing totally groundbreaking I know but it had been quite some time since I had really incorporated consistent strength training…and get this…it feels good.

I suppose it also doesn’t help that I have had a niggling ITB pain on my left knee since the marathon. Funny, but the same thing happened to me after the Shamrock Marathon. I thought for sure it was because I didn’t rest and started running again right away (umm, I did an indoor triathlon the week after and then the Monument 10k the week after that!).

Anyhoo, after a summer of what was a good deal of running for me, it’s probably my body just telling me to take a little time off. And I’ve never been the type of runner who freaks out over taking some time off. In fact, I typically take many more rest days than the average runner. Even during marathon training!

restday

So I really liked this Remy’s World semi-sarcastic article from RW. It’s amazing how 4 days off (or in my opinion, a week off) can reenergize. And prevent/help heal some minor nagging injuries. And if you have not heeded that advice yet and are on the road to overtraining, something that can derail your running–and health–for quite some time, here are 10 signs you need a rest day as taken from RW:

Pay attention to the following 10 markers. If three or more of these indicators raise a red flag, you should consider a few easy sessions or off days so you can return to running strong (see box, right). Says Hall, “Now I’m learning to love to rest.”

1 BODY MASS: You lost weight from yesterday
A two percent drop in weight from one day to the next indicates a body-fluid fluctuation. Most likely, you didn’t hydrate enough during or after your last workout. Dehydration negatively impacts both physical and mental performance, and could compromise the quality of your next workout.

2 RESTING HEART RATE: Your resting heart rate is elevated
Take your pulse each morning before you get out of bed to find what’s normal for you. An elevated resting heart rate is one sign of stress. It means your nervous system prepared for fight or flight by releasing hormones that sped up your heart to move more oxygen to the muscles and brain. Your body won’t know the difference between physical and psychological stress. A hard run and a hard day at work both require extra recovery.

3 SLEEP: You didn’t sleep well or enough
A pattern of consistently good sleep will give you a boost of growth hormones, which are great for rebuilding muscle fibers. Several nights in a row of bad sleep will decrease reaction time along with immune, motor, and cognitive functions—not a good combination for a workout.

HYDRATION: Your pee is dark yellow
This can be an indicator of dehydration, barring the consumption of vitamins, supplements, or certain foods the evening before. The darker the color, the more you’re struggling to retain fluids, because there’s not enough to go around. You need H2O to operate (and recover).

5 ENERGY LEVEL: You’re run down
If your energy level is low, there’s something amiss. The key is honesty. Athletes can block out signs of fatigue to push through it, thinking it will make them stronger. It won’t always work that way.

6 MOOD STATE: You’re cranky
When your body is overwhelmed by training (or other stressors), it produces hormones like cortisol that can cause irritability or anxiety. Stress also halts chemicals like dopamine, a neurotransmitter in the brain that has a big bummer effect on mood when depleted. Crankiness probably means not enough recovery.

7 WELLNESS: You’re sick
Any illness, or even a woman’s menstrual cycle, will increase your need for energy to refuel your immune system, which is having to work overtime. This means fewer resources available for recovering from training.

8 PAIN: You’re sore or nursing an injury
Whether you’re sore from overworked muscles or an injury, your body needs more energy to put toward repair, lengthening total recovery time.

9 PERFORMANCE: Your workout went poorly
This is a subjective measure of workout quality, not quantity nor intensity. If you felt great on yesterday’s run, you’d evaluate that as good. If you felt sluggish on that same run, you’d count it as poor. Trending workout quality—multiple poors in a row—is one of the easiest ways to identify the need for more recovery.

10 OXYGEN SATURATION: Your oxygen level has dipped
The amount of oxygen in the hemoglobin of the red blood cells can be measured by placing your fingertip in a portable pulse oximeter, a gadget available online for about $40. The higher the percentage, the better: Above 95 percent is the norm at sea level or for an athlete who is fully acclimated to a given altitude. This is a new area in recovery science, requiring more research, but there may be a link between low oxygen saturation and the need for more recovery.

Count Your Red Flags
The restwise algorithm assigns more weight to some markers (e.g., performance) than others (e.g., mood), along with other factors to generate a precise recovery score. But you can get a sense for your ballpark recovery quality by tallying the red flags (left) you average per day in a week.

0-1 GREEN LIGHT
You are clear to train hard.

2-4 CAUTION
You can go ahead with a hard workout if your training plan calls for it, but cut it short if it feels too hard. Better yet, take an easy day, or a day off.

5-6 WARNING
You’re entering the danger zone, which could be intentional according to your periodization or peaking protocol. If not, back off.

7-10 DANGER
You require mandatory time off, ranging from a day to a week, depending on the severity of your fatigue and what you’ve seen over the previous few days and weeks. You may need to visit your doctor.

FEEL Better: Too much rest has its own problems: Your performance stalls. On your recovery days, do something active; go for a bike ride, walk, or do yoga.

MUSCLES NEED 48 HOURS TO RECOVER AFTER AN INTENSE RUN. DURING THIS TIME, CELLS ARE REPROGRAMMED TO BE STRONGER.

I’m not advocating taking extra rest days if you don’t need them. I just keep reading more and more blogs where bloggers claim that they’re running more mileage than ever, faster than ever, more consistently than ever. And that’s cool. Kudos! Seriously! Remember this post I wrote?  I’m just going against the grain here in the blog world and saying, “hell, take some freaking time off it won’t kill you”. In fact, it will probably help you in ways that aren’t even related to running: your stomach hurts? you keep getting sick? you haven’t been sleeping well? lost your appetite? feel more anxiety than usual? Your immune system and mental capacities are probably run down and you could definitely reap the benefits of some rest days.

overtraining

It’s my suggestion–and I’m close to being a doctor, but not an M.D. here people–that if you notice some mental ailments in particular such as anxiety, irritability, and difficulty sleeping, then you could have a more serious case of overtraining…and if that’s the case then the recovery is much, much longer. It’s all about finding that right balance of the right amount of running for you and feeling your absolute best. If you’ve been struggling with physical and/or mental ailments (and I’m not impervious to this) and have been racking your brain trying to think of why you feel less than great everyday, it is quite possible that you haven’t found your running/rest balance yet. 

betterlife So with that…Happy Friday and have a great weekend of running!!!!! J.K. Sorta. I really do hope everyone has a great weekend and that their runs/long runs are wonderful. Just some food for thought about finding better balance today. I’m working on it myself and I think I’ll keep it this way until the end of 2012. Then in 2013 I will inevitably put together a new racing calendar and be back at it

Have you found yourself a victim to overtraining before? Did you have any overtraining ailments? 

How many rest days a week do you take? 

**[This is something I really want to know from you guys!]: when you switch up your exercise routine, how do you do so? What do you do instead of running? 

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7 Responses to Running Rut

  1. glad you are finding a way to listen to your body and do what you feel. loved reading all of this

  2. Thanks for sharing! I overtrained last year by increasing speed and distance at the same time. I rarely ran any miles slower than marathon pace and I wound up with a stress fracture. I’ve always been lucky that my body can run 6 days a week but I’ve found a much better balance with mixing up the intensities of my runs. Some days I run fast and others I run a recovery pace that’s over a minute/mile slower than my fast runs. It’s worked so far!

    When I don’t run I usually swim. I’d like to say I strength train but I’m soo bad about it!

  3. Carina says:

    It’s always a tricky balance. I firmly believe miles are king if you want to improve at the marathon. The low mileage schedules just don’t produce the same results, but I seem to hit a breaking point every time I’m holding weekly miles in the mid-50s for a few weeks in a row. And I’m not sure how to get around that, esp since I’m hoping to go for a lifetime PR in the fall and I’m going to need a lot of solid miles to get there. I’ve got 4 months coming up of shorter but much more intense runs, then in May I’ll be adding the distance back in. We shall see…

    As for you, only you know how hard you ran MCM, but you know the rule — 1 day off hard running per mile raced. If you were at race effort given the conditions, that’s a month off, so you’re doing well to relax and lay off the miles for a while.

  4. I think us runners tend to be a little hard on ourselves about our training regimens. As for me…right now I am not really running a whole lot during the week…mostly short runs like you, and weaving in more of the strength training. Listen to your body and enjoy some recovery time! You will be back full force before you know it 🙂

  5. I’m like you in that I have no problem taking more rest days! There’s nothing worse than pushing right through an injury or just not feeling the long run.
    I am training for my first full right now, which is in March:D

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