How a Rest Period Can Increase Running Pace

Since I like to listen to podcasts so much, it occurred to me I might start recording my blogs for those people who would rather listen than read. This is the first one I have recorded. The audio can be found at the end. If there are particular posts you would like to have recorded, just send me a message!

how-a-rest-period-can-increase-running-paceMost runners dream of a day when they go out for a run and their pace is magically faster. That happened to me a few days ago, but the magic was a significant rest period.

This happened both because of and in spite of having the flu for a couple of weeks before a race. It is true that my running suffered directly after the forced rest due to illness. I told that story, The Flu versus The Half Marathon, in a previous post. After this event, I had to rest again, because of a stressed hamstring that got uncomfortably tight when I tried to run more than a half mile.

This subsequent two week rest was not one of complete inactivity. I did my normal household chores and some gardening. I swam the normal amount in my special backyard swimming pool (20 minutes 3 days a week, which is probably equivalent to half a mile). I also rode my spin bike in an easy to moderate effort twice a week. Whatever was specifically going on with my hamstring was not felt with these activities.

After a complete rest for 3 days, I tested my leg with a short run again. It was still getting tight after one mile. As I continued to test it every other day or so, I could comfortably increase my distance a little at a time. Throughout this time, I was taking my usual evening hot bath and using a foam roller to massage and help relax the hamstring.

At the end of two weeks, I could not feel any tightness in the hamstring when I rolled it. I thought I could probably safely attempt a 5 mile run, but I did not have any other goals for the run, other than to have fun and feel comfortable.

At mile 4, the leg began to feel slightly tight, but when I just thought about running a bit more relaxed and light on my feet, it felt loose enough that it seemed reasonable to run another lap around my loop. This would bring the total distance to 5.2 miles. When I was done, I saved the run stats on my Strava app, as usual, but since I don’t run with my reading glasses on, couldn’t look at it right away.

When I got in my car, where I keep a spare pair of reading glasses, I glanced at the stats. I was astonished to see that my pace had been a solid 45 seconds per mile faster than my fastest comfortable pace prior to the illness and injury! I hadn’t been breathing hard or trying hard. I didn’t have any sore muscles develop, or any signs that body parts were strained. In fact, my hamstring continued to be totally healed a couple days later.

The only small problem I had was with the toe that had gotten a blister during the half marathon. The new skin got slightly rubbed off, but not nearly as raw as directly post-race. It healed completely within a couple of days and I have been running, walking, and dancing barefoot on many surfaces since then.

Sickness is always frustrating. Resting can feel lazy and/or like the results of the hard work of training are slipping through your fingers. The truth is that the right kind of resting is a part of wise training. Sometimes those rests are decided for us and for our own good.

A Fun Fitness After 50 audio recording of the blog: