Lace up the shoes, grab the water bottle, and whatever you do don’t forget the anti chafing stick. You are now equipped to take on the long weekend training run. Initially it takes some shuffling out the door to get started, but after you start logging some miles the rhythm becomes natural, sustainable and the runner high comes rushing your way.
The training days filled with base mileage, distance, or tempo are the fun days. Blowing off some steam while building up your aerobic capacity will help you get to race day. However, there is a day during the training week that is equally if not MORE important: the rest days.
A good training program has at least one day during the week where no running should take place. These days are so critical to allow the body to recover and allow you to further build off what you have been working towards. The rest day is well deserved, important, and should be respected.
But let us take the rest day one step further to where many folks do not go. As mentioned earlier, the rest day is critical for recovery. Unfortunately, allowing your body one rest day compared to the other 5-6 days of work is not a sufficient ratio and can still lead to fatigue, performance plateau, and increase your injury risk. Therefore it is important to not just consider a rest day but also a rest week. Now don’t worry, this doesn’t mean an entire week off from running but just a relative decrease known as: deload week.
A deload week is a reduction in your total mileage across a week. This week usually takes place after 4-5 weeks of training as the body is reaching fatigue. A majority of training plans will have you add mileage each week leading up to the race until just a couple of weeks before race week where you begin to taper. Think of this method like climbing a mountain with a constant incline before you reach the summit. By incorporating a deload week you build the mileage up each week but then for one week reduce your overall mileage to allow increased recovery. Think of the deload week like summiting a smaller mountain and then having reprieve before climbing higher to the next summit. With both of these training plans the end point is the same, but how you get there is slightly different.
There are several advantages to incorporating a deload week into your training plan.
- By having greater variability in your training program, there may be greater neuromuscular adaptations that can occur and therefore enhance your performance.
- Having a deload week allows for some flexibility with life, and if you have a busier schedule where you cannot crank out the mileage that week it is easy to adjust.
- This increases how much recovery you have during the week, decreasing your risk of plateauing or burning out during the training phase.
- By decreasing your overall weekly mileage, you have increased the time available to spend on strength training, speed work, or hills without increasing your risk of injury.
Why work harder when you can work smarter. By increasing your recovery you are also increasing your performance and decreasing your risk of injury. If you are interested, check out our previous blog post for more information on how important managing fatigue is to reducing your risk of injury. Happy miles!
1.Lorenz D & Morrison S. Current concepts in periodization of strength and conditioning for the sports physical therapist. 2015. Int J Sports Phys Ther. 10(6): 734-747.