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Recovery is essential to improve one's fitness.  It is during recovery time that our bodies absorb the strength for which the workouts are designed.  Every training plan should plan for both training and racing coupled with deliberate recovery time.

However, due to the vast differences that exist among people, not every training/ recovery plan will look the same.  Rest and recovery are relative.  For some athletes one of the best ways to recover is to go for another run or walk or to cross train either on the same day or the following day. For others, recovery will mean a day or two completely free from training.  They depend on the distance one is training for, the age and experience of the athlete, and what the goals of the training are.

When training for shorter distances/times (5K - Half Marathon), athletes often prefer to recover between each workout so that they feel fresh before the next intense session.  Conversely, for distances beyond two hours some workouts, weeks, and segments of the training (like long runs & back-to-back long runs) are specifically designed to not allow the body to fully recover.  The goal is to feel fatigued to prepare the body and mind for the impending fatigue one will encounter in the actual race. Both appraoches have their merits and both have just as much to do with psychology as with physiology.

I encourage my athletes to take time off after each competitive season or BIG goal race. When they ask how long they should take off I encourage them not to resume training until they miss it so much that they are ready to be consistent until the end of the next season or training block.  For some, this means a week. For others, a month or more. Some may ease their way back into running by doing some active recovery through cross training (biking, swimming, skiing, climbing, aqua-jogging, elliptical, yoga, hiking, etc.) while others will jump right back into running once they feel recovered.

This time off from intense training is just as important (if not more) than time on the feet. During this down time I take time to evaluate the previous season and to set goals for the coming season of base training and the following season of racing.  I encourage my athletes to do the same.  I also like to use this time to read books and articles to inspire me and keep my mind fresh.  I encourage my athletes to do the same.  I find that a week or two a year is usually plenty of time off and it seems to help me avoid more serious injuries, fatigue, illness, and staleness throughout the year. 

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