Running in the 'Meda: Resting

Running in the 'Meda: Resting

Marty Beene

Photo by Cameron Beene.

Today we're going to talk about the opposite of running, also known as resting. Recently, there has been a growing trend of streaking. No, not the kind of streaking where you run without clothes on, but the kind where you run every day, for weeks, months, or even years! People who "streak" must love running. I mean, really love running.

As a coach, I strongly advise even the most avid runners to take a day off every week. This doesn't necessarily mean you sit on the couch and eat potato chips all day long. It's certainly okay to do some other fitness activity, like cycling, swimming, walking, weightlifting, Frisbee tossing - whatever you enjoy. But except for a very small minority of the running community (the streakers), running will start to feel like a chore before long, and your body will grow lethargic. You could even develop an overuse injury.

Another kind of a rest in your running routine is to take a week or two completely off from running once or twice a year. This kind of rest is slightly more oriented toward competitive runners who try to focus on one or two specific races or seasons. The scientific studies of training physiology support doing this: Our bodies can't seem to continue to get in progressively better shape without an occasional break and "reboot." In laboratory tests, in fact, taking a week off has a negligible effect on fitness. Similar to the weekly day off, doing other kinds of fitness activities (if you feel like it) is certainly fine.

A friend of mine who became an ultra-marathoner would always take two weeks off of running every year. Remember that ultra-marathoners are usually kind of obsessed with running, so the notion of taking that much time off was unusual. But it worked: He finished second in the Western States 100 race one year, one of the most prestigious ultras in the world.

I always recommend the two-week layoff to the high school runners I coach. Just as I mention above, I encourage them to do other fitness activities during that two weeks, and strongly recommend that they start a series of simple strength and flexibility exercises during that second week.

I just completed my off-week last week. I was on a vacation with my wife and son - we took a road trip to visit friends in Vancouver, British Columbia. I didn't run a step for nine days. I did ride my bike a little the day before we left, walked around Vancouver a few times (once for about five miles across Stanley Park), hiked on the Baden-Powell trail, kayaked for two hours, and even played Frisbee when we took breaks at rest stops along the drive up and back. My mind and body definitely feel ready to start working toward another challenge, whatever that might be.

In other news, we all heard the sad news about Robin Williams. What many people may not know about him is that he was a star runner for Redwood High School back in the late 1960s. He was a half-mile specialist, and achieved what all high school half-milers strive for: a sub-two-minute time, running a 1:59.4 in 1969. He was also a member of Redwood's 4x440-yard relay team that qualified for the state meet with a 3:22.4 (that's 50.6 seconds per lap). That mark still stands as the school record.

One of my friends posted on his Facebook that a great way to celebrate Robin Williams' life would be to publicize the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline phone number. Depression is a very challenging illness, one that some of my family members have suffered (thankfully, none have resorted to suicide). The more we can all encourage people to use the Lifeline, the better. A call to the Lifeline is free, confidential, and will be answered by a trained counselor. Here's the number: 1-800-273-8255. Please share it!

Marty Beene, a USA Track & Field certified coach, is owner of Be The Runner; he coaches adults from beginners to veterans individually and in groups. Marty can be reached at marty@BeTheRunner.com.