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On the flip side, rest has always been an integral part of every aspect of our lives, so why should it be any different when it comes to training? Competitive runners embrace this in the form of down weeks (also known as cutback weeks). A down week is a planned rest week—once every 4-7 weeks—during which they cut down the mileage that they would typically fulfil during a normal training week. So what exactly are its benefits? Here are some of them.
Running on Empty
This has probably been emphasised before by worried peers and family members, and on a more professional level, your coach. Logic dictates that in any exercise, too much huffing and puffing eventually takes your body to a level of strenuousness it cannot handle. Your fuel is spent, and your form eventually dissipates—a sorry, familiar tale for many a hopeful athlete. By cutting down the intensity of your runs, you are essentially allowing time for your body to recover and recharge.
Of Broken Bones and Dreams
Let’s be real, some of us have never been and will never be made of steel. Some of us, unfortunately, are more injury-prone than others. Sprained muscles and aching knees are but two of a long list of ailments that plague us whenever we go a bit mad and increase the intensity of our training. We also tire out more. Down weeks are therefore especially important for us in finding that fine line between pushing our limits and breaking something.
For more professional runners who regularly train for marathons, down weeks are for you, too. Team Indiana Elite coach Robert Chapman acknowledges down weeks as an important part of the overall training plan, to which he adds that it helps runners absorb the training they have done before each down week, and therefore better prepares them for the next set of training ahead. This ultimately maximises progress made, and by extension, results come race day.
"Rest has always been an integral part of every aspect of our lives, so why should it be any different when it comes to training?"
In short, down weeks are useful for runners of all levels of competitiveness, from leisure joggers to human rockets. Our entire lives are centred around a proverbial equilibrium— finding the middle ground in everything that we do. This is more so in an activity as physically demanding as running. Though the resilience in you screams to push on, one must know when to slow down.
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