Active Rest

Please read the disclaimer.

Like with roadrunning, walking races take place all the year round. However, like the rest of athletics, the summer period marks the most intensive period of competition and the most important races. So, like other athletes, race walkers often consider a period of ‘active rest’ once the competitive season is over, particularly if the competition has been intense, or they have been training and competing for a period of six months or more, or they are aware of any injuries or small niggles creeping up.

The idea is to give the body an extended, once-a year opportunity to recover all the little strains and micro-injuries that are caused by competition and hard training, and which the athlete may or may not have become aware of. A little break can also help people come back mentally refreshed, particularly if they know their body is in good shape when they start again. The idea is not to have a complete rest – that would lead to loss of fitness, and loss of strength and flexibility, and a certain level of activity is needed to to avoid the buildup of scar tissue at the sites of injury and keep the blood flowing round the body to heal them. Some sort of aerobic activity also helps avoid losing too much fitness while off heavy training.

What should you do while on ‘active rest’ ?

  • keep some sort of aerobic activity going, but at a lower level of intensity. Jogging, cycling, swimming, hillwalking, rambling, etc are fine.
  • get any injuries treated / keep having them treated / have massages to enhance the recovery process.
  • continue to do your stretches and work on flexibility.
  • do strength training, but at lower intensities / smaller weights / higher numbers of reps.
  • use the spare time to try out other sports or other forms of training. How about beginners’ yoga, pilates, Alexander technique or circuits classes, or having a few ‘taster’ sessions with a rambling or cycling group? They’ll usually let you do a few before you have to pay a subscription. You might find something interesting to add to your cross-training options.
  • it’s a good time to take your main annual holiday if you can – though like everyone you will probably need to have planned for this.
  • adjust your calorie intake if your overall level of activity will fall so that you aren’t carrying extra weight when you come back to training. However don’t starve yourself. Remember that a day’s rambling or cycling will probably burn more calories than any normal training session.

What should you NOT do while on active rest ?

  • don’t do nothing ! there’s a clue in the name – ACTIVE rest !
  • don’t do race walking – complete break is best
  • better not to do anything intensive in any other sport – jogging may be OK, best not to race or do high-intensity sessions.
  • don’t do intensive strength building – reduce your weights, and do 15’s or more rather than the 8s and 10’s.

How long for ?

  • it depends on whether you have injuries to get over and how intense the season has been. Two weeks is not enough. It should be at least three, sometimes up to six. You want to return to training feeling energetic and physically and mentally refreshed – if you aren’t feeling that yet, take another week.

Won’t I lose fitness ?

  • in some aspects, yes. Your race speed will be lower – but once you get back there will be no major races for a while. You may lose a little in aerobic fitness and strength. However, you will not lose much. The general rule is that for the first two weeks, you lose no fitness (which is why some people plan pre-race tapers of up to two weeks). After that, for each extra week you don’t train, it takes one week of training to recover the fitness lost. So even if you take a long ‘active rest’ of six weeks, it would take about a month to get fitness back, so ten weeks after the start of your rest you are back to where you were – and ready to embark another 42 weeks of training, with a sound body and a refreshed mind, before your next rest. (In fact it doesn’t work exactly like that – usually the training you do after your rest will be different, so it may take a little longer before you are back to doing the same race times, for example.)

Did you read the disclaimer ?


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