As far as my running goes, I really try to take those purposeful steps back so that I can keep moving forward, even when I am feeling really good. Sometimes these step backs are as simple as a recovery run or a rest day, or a whole week where I step away from my strength training routine, or a week or even a couple of months (between training cycles usually) where I reduce the intensity and/or volume of my miles and just run for fun and the sheer joy of it.
During a marathon training cycle I always take at least one rest day a week – off from all forms of exercise – and every 3-4 weeks I reduce my mileage and the intensity of my running so that I can recover on a bigger scale and stay strong for the training cycle. I call these weeks my “step back weeks” and really try to not only embrace the additional rest from a physical perspective but also to reflect internally on how things are going, where my head is and where my heart is. It’s a way to avoid injury as well as mental burnout. When things are going extremely well in my training like they are now I sometimes have teeny moments where I consider NOT taking them because my body, mind and heart feel so good, but I know better and choose to stick to my own rules and trust that even when I’m feeling good these steps back and short periods of rest have a lot of purpose and will keep me healthy and strong and more energized for the road ahead. I would much rather take a step back when I am feeling good than have to take one because I ran my body into the ground, after all!
This week is my first step back week in the last month. Typically I build my mileage for three weeks, and then I step back for one week before building it back again. The last three weeks were intense and awesome! I ran three consecutive weeks of sky-high (for me) mileage (81 miles, 84 miles and then 90 miles) with 2 hard days (one quality track workout and one long run per week), one rest day and then easy/recovery running in between making those numbers add up – honoring the purpose of each and every run. My body has been handling the mileage and the workload very well. Last week my 90 mile week was topped off with my fastest long run ever – 21 miles at a 7:23 average – run with negative splits and feeling so strong the whole way through. I came off that week with a major gratitude-filled “WOW” feeling. I have spent the last few days since that run just hanging on to that feeling and trusting in the purpose of this step back week.
So what does a step back week look like for me? This week has been mostly easy running with reduced mileage (I am taking my mileage back down to 70 miles this week) and today I went out for a run and threw in some tempo paced miles rather than doing a hard track workout this week. My long run this weekend will be back down to 16 miles and I am still taking just one rest day this week. I can tell that my body is appreciating the rest and I feel excited for the next build in my cycle so I know that my mind and spirit are benefiting from this break, too. My race is still two months away so there is a lot of work to be done down the road and I want to feel fresh and strong and healthy for it!
Do you take step back weeks in your training cycles? What do they look like for you?