Fitness Fridays: Down Times are Good Times (Sort Of)

Since I’ve started running, I haven’t really thought twice about taking time off. There were a few weeks where things went haywire for me personally. I took time off then because I had to, because my heart wasn’t in to my training and my brain was thinking about other things. (Apparently being mentally tired requires just as much recovery time as being physically tired.)

I used to find that I dreaded my rest days. I kept thinking that I could keep going out there and train even longer or harder. Unfortunately the body isn’t a machine: it’s designed to slow down every once in awhile to process the work that has been done, and rebuild for a stronger future. Without proper rest, you get injured more frequently and tire faster. Additionally, your muscles never get the chance to rebuild themselves to be stronger than before.

This evening I met with an awesome sports/triathlete masseuse — David, from LA Body Mechanics — and he helped me through a lot of the soreness and fatigue in my muscles that I didn’t even know was there. A lot of it was build up from improper recovery and rest. Most of it was from just being uninformed about how the body worked. His work was amazing and I feel like I have a new set of legs to go out with. I finally feel like I can go the distance again.

Down times can be seen as pretty bad times, especially if you’re down because of an injury or a personal issue. I’ve personally been dealing with the chronic soreness ever since my half marathon a few weeks ago. The unfortunate thing is that I could’ve avoided it if I paid more attention to my work/rest schedule. The week after the half marathon, I still attempted a similar schedule, pace, and distance. What I should’ve done was taken time off to let my body heal, but instead I pushed it too far and ended up slower and in pain.

So, even in a down time, there are lots of things you can do to make them worth your while:

  • Get a massage. Work out the kinks and soreness. (This is my favorite thing aside from eating!)
  • Cross-train. Instead of focusing on just one sport, try something new, like swimming.
  • Stretch. Take a yoga class (at the gym, in a studio, or on Netflix).
  • Do some reading. Check out a few books or magazines on running.
  • Spend some quality time with loved ones. Chances are you neglect them a little bit when you’re in the rabbit hole of training.
  • Call someone. Chances are someone wants to hear from you and will want to chat about your training.
  • Learn to cook. Find some decent recipes for athletes and learn to cook a few lunches and dinners.
  • Replenish your iPod. If you run with music, now’s a good time to load up on new tunes to keep you fresh.
  • Eat. This is one of my favorite things to do in my downtime. I just like to load up!
  • Drink lots of water. Make sure to keep yourself hydrated even though you’re not running.
  • Do the things that make you happy. Running might make you happy but you have more than one interest. Go out there and enjoy them.
  • Go shoe shopping. Make an advanced purchase or two and stock up on your favorite running shoes.
  • Get ready for next season. Research some upcoming races, make travel plans, book flights, and more.
  • Evaluate your wardrobe. The days are getting shorter now, so you might want to check out some reflective gear.
  • Make a schedule. Start planning what your running schedule will look like when you return from your respite.
  • Review your training log. Evaluate your progress and see how far you’ve come.

What do you do in your down time? Any recommendations?