We’ve talked extensively about training, be it for a triathlon, a half marathon, or an obstacle course. Sticking to a schedule and putting your all into preparing is important. However, there’s a second aspect of training that’s just as vital: rest. Specifically, de-training. We spoke with Aaptiv’s Master Running Coach Meghan Takacs to find out what exactly this is and why it’s so crucial to your workout regimen. Read on for Takacs’ approach to post-race rest.
What does it mean to de-train?
Think of de-training as a rest day, only it’s after a period of dedicated training (for example, for a 5K, 10K, or marathon). “The rest period, after a cycle of training, allows the body time to literally ‘de-train’ and recover,” Takacs says. “In order to have a positive response to the workload that just happened in the previous training cycle, your body needs time to recover. The goal of de-training is to preserve the training you just did.” In short, de-training is necessary to prevent burnout and overworking your body, both of which would erase any progress you’ve made.
“For instance, when you have a hard weight-training session, the fibers in your muscles break down. In order for those muscle fibers to have time to recover, you need to rest to allow them to rebuild. If you constantly work out on sore muscles, your body will never have an opportunity to repair and grow stronger, leaner muscles,” Takacs explains.
The same applies to running. If you train for a race, you’re putting your body under a large amount of stress. It’s paramount that after the race, you allow your body time to rest and recharge. “An athlete will optimize fitness if they are on a periodized training schedule that includes variation and the correct progression of adaptation to the stress of training,” Takacs adds, meaning you’ll get the most out of working out when you change things up, allow your body time to adapt, and train in cycles.
When should you de-train?
“It’s important to de-train yourself after races because, in order to peak again, your body needs time to recover,” Takacs tells us. “Think about it like this: You just ran your body into the ground for the past six weeks training for a 10K. You peaked at race day, and PR’ed your 10K by 15 seconds. Amazing! But here is where most athletes mess up. They ride off that high and can’t wait to race again. So they take two days off and then go right back into training hard, expecting to do better on their next race. Then they actually end up doing worse because their body is tired and overtrained.”
It’s practically impossible to bounce back from an intense training schedule right away. Because your body never gets the chance to repair and recover, going straight into more difficult workouts can make your performance worse.
“Obviously this is all relative to the athlete. But it’s definitely something to take into consideration, regardless of your level of fitness,” Takacs adds. “Some people may have three good races in a row or a great season. But it will come to an end if they expect to keep operating at such a robust caliber of athleticism.”
How long should you de-train?
It’s typical (and recommended) to take a rest day after a few days of working out. If you’re casually exercising (that is, not performing intense training), you only need a day or two of rest for your body to rebuild and recover. Similarly, when it comes to how long you should de-train, you should take into consideration how long or hard you’ve been training.
“Someone who does casual races and isn’t lifting or training over 20 miles per week doesn’t necessarily have to de-train as seriously as someone who is competing in races, especially distance races, training for something like the CrossFit Games, or doing Spartan Races or Ironmans,” Takacs says. This is because your body deals with much more stress when it comes to the latter. It will, therefore, take longer to fully recover.
“Marathon runners usually require the most amount of rest, as the toll on the body and the amount of mileage is highest. As for 10K and 5K races, it depends on how hard you are training for them,” Takacs continues. “If you are a track-and-field college athlete and run the 5K on the track, you will probably need to de-train more since your muscles and body broke down more. That is what the off-season is for.”
To be able to consistently push your body for an entire season or training program, your body requires time off. Even if you’re running 5Ks and 10Ks, as opposed to marathons, you should still give your body a post-race break. The thought of taking a break may worry some people. However, strength and endurance losses within that time aren’t detrimental. In fact, you can easily regain any losses that do occur once you’re back in “on-season.”
De-Training is individual.
Overall, the amount of de-training you should do is entirely dependent on the intensity and amount of time of your training. This differs from exercise to exercise and person to person. There’s no set-in-stone guideline for how long you should or shouldn’t de-train. Simply listen to your body, and don’t jump back into things too quickly.
“Anyone who is running races has some kind of determination to either complete another or to do better on the next one, and both of those goals require rest,” Takacs says. “You have to let your body recuperate, or else you will never get stronger. You can’t hold the peak forever. Good training is all about prioritizing the quality of your workouts, not the quantity.”