March 8, 2011

Rest Days

As I write this post, I am smack in the middle of forced rest and I'm going insane. After two really awesome runs last week, during which I maintained 9:15 paces (woohoo! I'm gaining speed!), I pulled my left hamstring while practicing yoga. It seems my muscles were pretty warmed up from one of my runs and when I went into Prasarita Padottanasana I might have pushed my left hamstring a little too deep. I woke up the next morning with a hammy extremely sensitive to the touch, couldn't even bend down to touch my toes, and even stretching hurt. But of course I ignored it, went out in high heels Friday night, danced a bit and woke up for a 10 miler Saturday morning. As you can imagine, the 10 miles didn't go so well; I only made it to 4.2 before my hamstring cramped to the point where I just couldn't shake it out, and I limped home feeling sad and defeated.

When I mapped out my running schedule for the month of March, I was excited to see 90 miles on my calendar. My running schedule had been all over the place since Philadelphia and with Spring races approaching, my goal was to get it back on track.  Kickboxing once a week, Refine method once a week,  daily yoga practice and 2-3 short runs coupled with one long run on the weekend; that was the plan. I was even expecting to finally add speed work with a group that meets in Central Park Tuesday nights, something I've been holding off for a while. But now I'm falling behind and if I can't make up those missed miles, I'll have 83 on the calendar. I know, nothing to be upset about; then how come I am?

My hamstring forced me to sit out Sunday and rest. I thought perhaps I would be ok to go to Refine Method on Monday and maybe even combine it with a short run to and from the studio. I was wrong. That was rest day #2. And now I'm sitting here, writing this post and wondering if I'm ok to go to speed group tonight, something I've really been looking forward to. My hamstring feels better but will speed work aggravate it and set me back? I'm running the More Half Marathon on April 3rd, my first race of the season, in a few weeks and I was hoping to PR (personal record). Will all this rest ruin my chance to PR? Will I lose the speed I've worked so hard to gain?

So it seems that rest days are just as much of a challenge as the runs themselves, and this is proving to be especially true with my Half Marathon less than a month away. Wisdom and research tell us that rest days are actually crucial to training and improvement. Rest gives the body a chance to recover, your muscles the opportunity to repair and get stronger, faster. I know this to be true. I've seen this in my past training when after a rest day, my runs are faster and I feel awesome. But rest days are always a mental struggle and never seem to get any easier to take. Which gives me a new goal- conquer the rest days. Now how to accomplish that goal, hmmm.... any suggestions?

Dailymile posed the question last week, "What does a "rest day" mean to you in terms of training?" and my answer was "A day to give my tired muscles a rest and usually pamper them a bit. Usually involves some deep stretching yoga (not the kind that works your muscles, just stretching), and a hot epsom salt bath." But I only take one of those rest days a week, if even that. So I'm interested, how many rest days do you take each week, and what do they involve for you?


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