I have read quite a few articles about over-doing the training; articles that proclaim the benefits of rest, relaxation and recovery, accounts that warn of runners that don't pay attention to the niggles and pains that are really your body telling you to take a break, and blogs about athletes whose bodies give out under the stress of heat, effort and endurance. But the question I occasionally (and somewhat recently) struggle with is really knowing when to rest, or when to push on.
Surely 3/4 of the way through a challenging race that I am well prepared for is not the time to give in to the niggles and the exhaustion, I need to "push-through" to reach my goals, to achieve more and to better my running self (ahh, such a metaphor for life et cetera). But then how do I apply this tactic to training?
Last week I covered more than 90km in seven days of runs. The individual runs varied in distance, speed, terrain and environment, likewise my energy and stamina varied. A weekly distance of 90km is a goal that I would like to maintain, and I have built up to this sort of distance over a reasonably long time, but this week I just haven't had the energy (or the motivation) to do the same sort of distance.
After a couple of days I began to wonder if I had unwittingly achieved the dreaded over doing it. The worst thing has been the lack of motivation (I don't normally need an excuse to get out the door), and I thought that maybe I had reached the end of my running road (again with the metaphors). So despite a lot of me feeling that I should be out training, but not actually wanting to get out there and do it, I decided instead to try a bit of resting.
Every runner knows that sitting about when you are used to clocking up kilometers is hard, but I decided to listen to that inner voice, and chose not to head out the door again until I felt motivated to - on some level my body would know that I was ready to go again, and my motivation would be allowed back.
This tactic lasted for two days, then I headed out for some interval training, just a little light sprinting and sweating, I enjoyed the run, but still didn't feel that I had the same up-and-go I was used too. A couple of days later I took the dog to the beach and incorporated a short run in the sand dunes (a quad and lung workout and a half) and felt refreshed and elated afterwards.
I got some back issues of Runners World from the library, as well as some training guides, and made myself sit on the couch for the rest of the week, absorbing advice and enjoying other runners' stories... and magically the motivation and my energy levels have come creeping back.
I am planning to ease back into my training regime with some shorter runs to begin with. I want to continue to increase my weekly mileage, stamina and endurance, but the trick will be to achieve that without sacrificing my ability (or urge) to train at all.