The Importance of Rest in Marathon Training

One of the most important parts of any training program is rest. You heard me right: one of the keys to success on race day is actually not running now and then.

Over the last five months, I’ve experimented with streak running – running at least 3km every day for weeks on end. Between August and October I ran 62 days in a row. Later in the year, I ran 26 days in a row in November and December.

I learned a lot about myself during those two extended periods of daily running. But the single biggest thing I learned running everyday is the importance of rest. Obviously, streak running doesn’t provide much in the way of rest and the lack of days off led to sore legs and shin splints both times.

Five days a week

When I was training for the BMO Vancouver Marathon in the winter and spring of 2014, I ran five days a week for the first two months, then eased it back a bit to four days a week at the peak of the program when the 29km and 32km Sunday runs were happening, and then ramped it back up to five days a week through to the taper.

That worked well for me as it reduced the stress on my legs during the most strenuous part of the training cycle and still allowed for rest days even when I was running five days a week.

Rest days
Running five days a week means a day off every two or three days.

Rest days provide a chance for your body to rebuild damaged tissues and that leads to stronger muscles that can take you farther and let you run faster. If you skip the rest, those damaged fibres aren’t repaired and the next run adds to the injury. Do that over and over and you’ll eventually break down.

There’s also a mental component to rest. I found running everyday to be exhausting at times. Those days where I didn’t feel like running were tough mentally and that led to some less-than-fun runs. Taking a day off now and then gives you a mental reset to go with the physical healing and makes for more enjoyable runs.

Lessons to learn from streak runners

You might be asking yourself how streak runners keep going for months and even years without a rest. The answer to that question is that streak runners do rest, but they do it a little differently. There’s a few things that non-daily runners can take from streak runners to help out with getting that important rest.

Firstly, you can rest and still run. The key is to keep the distance short and, most importantly, the pace slow. I’m talking about slower than your Sunday pace. Really slow and easy. A 3-5km run at a minute or two above your usual pace per kilometre is almost like not running at all and provides some active recovery to those tired muscles.

RestThat’s something non-streak runners can practice too. If you feel tired, or if your legs are feeling sore, ease back the pace or the distance and get in some active recovery without missing a run.

Secondly, you can almost take a day off, even if you run every day. How? By running early one day and then later the next. Granted, eventually you’ll need to make up that time difference, but that can be managed by opting for an afternoon run on the weekend, or with one of the shorter, slower runs mentioned earlier. Get the timing right, and you can get 36 or even 40 hours between runs, even if you run every day.

Once again, that’s a strategy that you can use in regular training as well. If you feel a bit tired after a long Sunday run of 29km, take Monday off and then delay your Tuesday run until late in the day and you can add an extra 12 hours to your recovery time.

Get your rest, improve your time

It’s tempting to try to run faster, farther and more often in an attempt to improve your marathon time. But don’t underestimate the importance of rest when training for your race. A day off here and there, and some easy, slower and shorter runs will make your training more effective than running yourself to exhaustion, or into an injury.

Rest up and run better!

Advent Runstreak Update Day 20

It’s been 20 days now since I started the Advent runstreak, and 22 days in a row overall.

1800km GoalAs with the last streak, my legs are offering up some complaints about the lack of rest days heading into week four. Specifically, it’s some minor shin splints that have returned. I’m not concerned as I know why it’s happening and also that when I quit with the daily running, things will heal up fairly quickly.

1,800km goal

As of today I’m at 1,769km for the year. That means I’m just 31km from my goal of 1,800km. With 16km planned for tomorrow, I’ll be able to hit that number on Christmas Eve with a few 5km runs on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday.

I’ll keep running in the week between Christmas and New Years, just not everyday.

Marathon training starts with the first long run of just 10km on January 18th. Resting, but staying active three or four times a week is the plan. I’m rolling into training for the 2015 Ottawa Marathon in really good shape. It’s going to be a great year.

Ten Winter Running Rules

It’s true. Winter running requires a different mindset than summer running.

When it comes to running in the season between autumn and spring, it’s all about embracing the weather rather than dreading it. Here’s a list of ten winter running rules to help you to relax, get out there and enjoy it.Winter running

  1. Light snow falling is better than light rain falling.
  2. It’s never quite as cold as you think it will be.
  3. If you have a choice, take the headwind going out, and the tailwind coming back.
  4. No matter how carefully you step, eventually you’ll get a soaker.
  5. You’ll almost always overdress (see #2).
  6. Non-runner friends will call you nuts, insane and crazy for running in the winter.
  7. Runner friends will call you out if you don’t show up for a Sunday run because it’s cold.
  8. That slush puddle? It’s way deeper than you think it is (see #4).
  9. Ice lurks under sidewalk snow patches.
  10. The water in your bottle will be refreshingly cold (and maybe frozen).

Feel free to add your own rules in the comments!

Onwards…the Runstreak Continues

Day 11 was indeed a snowy mess with 20cm of snow on the ground. Day 12 was better, but still tougher than running on bare pavement. Day 13 was with my beautiful wife and quite enjoyable. Day 14 was a long Sunday run in some dreary drizzle, but also quite wonderful.

Snowy run
Thursday’s run was a bit snowy, but I got out there!

The runstreak is now past halfway, and over two weeks. I’ll be ending it with a Christmas Eve run, before taking some time off around Christmas when travel and family activities will get in the way.

I’m feeling pretty good this time around and I think that might be because I rolled into this streak with an easier run than I did the first time. That one, which went 62 days, was started with a 15km race that I ran fast. That meant I wasn’t rested coming in and the lack of rest over the next two months added up.

I’m also within striking distance of my 1,800km goal for the year. After today I have 59km to go. If everything goes according to plan, I’ll be close to topping that by Christmas Eve, and maybe even all the way there. It’s been a good year.

Runstreak Day 9 and 10…and Snow in the Forecast

The runstreak continues with runs yesterday and today. December 10th means day 10 of the Advent streak, and day 12 overall. Contrasting to the last time I ran everyday, this time has been much easier. I don’t know why that is, but for whatever reason the days are just adding up and it doesn’t feel like it’s been almost two weeks already.

Tomorrow is shaping up to be the first bad weather run of the season. The weather people are saying 10-15cm of snow overnight and throughout the day so I think snow-covered sidewalks might be in my future.

Advent Run Streak Day 7 and 8

Day 7 and 8 are in the books. Yesterday it was a great run in which I ran a little over 15km with long-time running friend Melissa. Today it was a pretty terrible 5km on the treadmill at Variety Village.

That’s a nice reminder that you have good days and not so good days in running. Sometimes it’s what you eat, other times it’s everything going on in your life outside running. The trick is to remember the great runs, and forget the crappy ones.

Making Time for Running in December

At least according to my schedule, the first Sunday long run to kick off training for the 2015 Ottawa Marathon is six weeks today.

Six weeks isn’t that far off, and as I’ve said before, you really want to roll into a marathon training program. Starting training on that day is a big mistake that could come back to bite you once the big runs start in February.

Busy DecemberI get it though – running in December is tough. The weather often stinks and there’s always lots going on including Christmas shopping, office parties, and maybe some travel around Christmas and New Years. As bad as it is now, it usually just gets busier.

Some tips on how to make sure you get some running in

Amidst all that busy, you really need to be getting out for a few runs a week to make sure that you have a decent base of running in place before training starts. There’s no need to ramp up to a full four or five day a week schedule right now, but maybe a couple of runs during the week and a Sunday run would be a good idea.

  • Schedule your runs. It’s a busy time of year! Add your runs to your calendar each week along side everything else you are keeping track of. You’ll be more likely to get out and run if it’s on your schedule (and it’ll help you remember to reserve some time).
  • Keep doing your Sunday runs. It’s a good way to keep yourself from getting too crazy when you are out on Saturday night at a holiday party.
  • Plan some festive running. Grab a few running friends and do a Christmas lights tour, or a Jog ‘n’ Nog that combines a run with an informal holiday social event afterwards.
  • Use a run to escape the hustle and bustle. Take some “me” time and get away from it all for an hour. Hit the treadmill and watch a holiday special, or take an evening run around the neighbourhood. Sometimes it’s easy to get too busy during the holidays so use your running as a way to justify taking some time for yourself.

Come January when training starts, you’ll be rolling into it with a solid base and you’ll have a leg up on many of the other runners who took the month off.

Advent Runstreak Day 5 and 6

These two runs were a bit tougher to get motivated for. I experienced this last time I did a runstreak around the one week mark. There’s a fatigue that sets in, plus it was the end of a work week and running just wasn’t at the top of my list of things I wanted to do.

But I did get out on both days. Friday night we went downtown for dinner and I made some poor choices including a pan bread, some pasta with a cream sauce and a big glass of ice cold Coke. All good stuff, but not great when I went out for a run 90 minutes later.

Today was a bit better, but I still felt a bit sluggish. Normally we run on Saturday mornings at Variety Village, but it was closed for a big Christmas party so that left me running outside. Rather than heading out first thing in the morning, I decided to be lazy. Then we walked over to get a Christmas tree, and did some groceries.

That’s streak running for you. There are two questions to answer each day: When am I running, and how far? Whether I will run is not even a question. I will.

Friday on Dailymile
Saturday on Dailymile

Tamarack Ottawa Race Weekend’s Team Awesome

The news is finally out — I’m a part of Tamarack Ottawa Race Weekend’s Team Awesome.

Team AwesomeIt’s a group of about 20 runner-bloggers who are running one of the races at the 2015 Tamarack Ottawa Race Weekend and who want to share their training journey to support other runners along the way. Team Awesome is a great name for the group and a play on the overall theme for the event, “True North Strong, and Awesome”.

Canada’s Best Race Weekend

I’m pretty excited to be a part of the team, and also to be returning to the nation’s capital for my fourth Ottawa Race Weekend in 2015. I ran my fourth half marathon in Ottawa at my first Race Weekend back in 2009. In the spring of 2010, I ran my very first full marathon at the Race Weekend. I’ve been back just once since (in 2011, for the half marathon), but I’ve enjoyed the entire experience every time we’ve made the trip up from Toronto.

Ottawa Marathon finish
At the finish of my first marathon (Ottawa, 2010)

Since that first marathon in 2010, I’ve run six more full marathons in various cities in Canada. I’m looking forward to coming back to the race where it all started for me. I’ll be running the Scotiabank Ottawa Marathon as my eighth full marathon in May.

A Two-Day Long Celebration of Running

Ottawa Race Weekend is a pretty special event. The entire city seems to get involved in the races and it becomes a two day long celebration of all things running. I love going out on the Saturday night to watch the 5km and 10km races while thinking about my own race the next morning. There’s always people I know to cheer on and to cheer with. It’s really a ton of fun if running is your thing.

Sunday is always my race day in Ottawa. I’m already looking at the course map and thinking about what my goals will be. I’m also super excited that in 2015 both myself and my wife Ginny will both be running a marathon at the same time for the first time ever. She ran her first marathon in Chicago this year while I cheered with our two girls so it’ll be nice to toe the line with her in her second full marathon.

Pre-season Training

I’ve already started what I call pre-season training for the Scotiabank Ottawa Marathon. While the real work won’t start until mid-January, that doesn’t mean that I’ll be sitting around until then. I hope to share all the ups and downs of training and also to share some of my experience with you as you train for your race.

As any runner will tell you, there’s always more to learn. I’ve learned so much from the runners in my life who were happy to share their advice and experiences with me, and I trust that being part of Team Awesome will be as much about learning from others for me as it is for you.

Where to follow along

This blog will be the primary channel where I’ll share information and advice leading up to the Race Weekend. I’d love to talk more in the comments on each post, so don’t be afraid to drop me a line there if you have something to say or share.

You can also follow me on Twitter (@jameskoole). I’ve already warned all my friends that I’ll be talking about running even more often that usual over the next five months. Feel free to give me a follow and say hi. Make sure you tag all your Ottawa Race Weekend and training tweets with #TORW2015.

For those of you that use either DailyMile (jameskoole) or Garmin Connect (jameskoole), give me a follow there as well and I’ll do likewise.

I’m a big proponent of keeping a training log or blog, so if you don’t yet keep track of all your runs, I strongly recommend dailymile.com as a great way to do it. It’s a fantastic “Facebook for runners” that lets you track your runs and is also a welcoming and supportive community.

Last but not least, I’ll also be posting on Instagram (jameskoole) from time to time. It’s the least running-centric of the channels I post on, but if you also like seeing pictures of Toronto, and some kids-related stuff, check it out. During the race weekend, I’ll be sure to share some of the excitement of the expo, and the various races.

Advent Runstreak Day 3 and 4

I missed posting yesterday mostly because the day was a bit hectic and the run was pretty unmemorable. I ran the same 5km neighbourhood loop as usual and, other than the fact it was a bit colder yesterday, it was pretty much just your average 5km.

View it on Dailymile

Tonight, after another somewhat crazy day and a long commute home, I grabbed a very quick dinner (consisting of one english muffin, toasted with cheddar cheese), and we headed over to Variety Village as a family.

The girls are much more independent these days and tonight both Ginny and I hit the treadmills while they amused themselves in the field house. This is a huge deal for us. To be able to leave them on their own to play around on their own while we both run is awesome. It opens up so much more time to run and will enable us to both train for the Ottawa Marathon at the same time starting in January.

View it on Dailymile