14 March 2012

On Running Daily

Do you eat seven days per week?
                    --Dr. Joe Vigil in response to the question, "Should you train seven days per week?"

As I said yesterday, I took Monday off.  It was my first day off in nine days.  Even after taking one day off, I can feel stale, and my rhythm can become disrupted.  Doing something daily helps the body learn to act on autopilot.  If I have been running daily for a couple of weeks, I may find each day that I am dressed and out the door before I have even had a moment to consider the weather or the route I will take or to reconsider the run itself.  However, my body seems to adapt quickly to not running.  If I take one day off, my body the next day may go through a little rebellion by requesting that I observe a repeat of yesterday's inactivity.

I had little problem getting out for a run yesterday morning.  I owe my eagerness to still feeling good about my race on Sunday and to looking forward to discussing the race with both Alain and The Jewish Stallion as we enjoyed a lazy run to the beach.  Today, on the other hand, I felt awful, and I had to force myself into my running gear and out the door.  I even wore headphones and listened to a mindlessly entertaining comedy podcast.  Nonetheless, from the moment I began trotting to the moment the run ended, I looked forward to not running.  I even cut my run short.  I had wanted to run ten miles and at least 80 minutes, but I ended the run at eight miles and 71 minutes.

I think three things contributed to today's tortuous run.

1. I have only slept for about five hours each of the past three nights.  I have not given my body enough rest, and I have not given my body the sleep it needs to heal itself after demanding so much of it this past Sunday.  Tonight I must begin making payments on this sleep debt.

2. By running nine days in a row, I had begun to develop a rhythm of daily running.  Taking Monday off interrupted my consistency, and I do not act well to disruptions in my routine.  I do not know if this is an immutable character flaw or something that I can work on by being more Zen-like and minding each moment--i.e. forgetting the past and not thinking of the future.  Maybe I should be more disciplined about cross training on non-running days.  By merely performing a different aerobic activity I may be able to trick my body into believing its need for running had been sated. Or maybe I should just run daily.

3. The excitement of racing well has worn off and my body now feels the full effect of running hard.  This reason is probably connected to the poor sleep I've had during the past few nights, and I wonder if I would have felt as bad as I did today if I had been getting a full night's sleep each of the past three nights.  Might reason one be the only reason that I felt awful today?  It certainly would seem so when considering all the research we've seen lately on the importance of sleep.

Whatever the reason for my feeling lousy while running today, one thing is for sure: I should be proud that even when feeling my worst, I can still get in 70 minutes and eight miles of running.  I did not take another day off and risk losing fitness.  Today, I gained fitness.

And by 3:00 this afternoon, I had recovered enough strength to frolic like a child and to run around the playground with my daughters and their friends.  In the end, isn't this the only running I need to do daily?

As always, if you have any questions or comments about my training and racing or yours, please leave them in the comments section below.  Thank you for reading.


  1. Do I eat seven days a week? Yes, but exercise is a different thing. Eating is refueling. Training is all about tearing down and building up. Sometimes you need to take a day off to let the body rebuild.

  2. W and S, the rest of the quotation is, "You can live without food longer than without oxygen, so you better not skip your aerobic exercise. If you take one day off per week, that is 52 days per year." I included the epigraph mostly because I thought it was funny.

    I agree with what you say, but too often, I think people include a rest day because they heard someone say that they should take one day off per week or because they're following a plan that includes off days. I think people might find they can do more than they think if they listen to their bodies and understand the difference between the normal fatigue associated with training and actually having run the body down enough to have increased injury risk.

    Ed Eyestone is the only successful elite runner I know of who actually planned a day off most weeks. (He'd still run up to 120 miles per week, even with the day off, though.) I don't think we've seen Ryan Hall benefit greatly by including one rest day per week in his training.

    I wonder how often guys like us would need a day off if we took great care of our nutrition and sleep and built up volume and intensity in a smart manner. But there is no doubt, sometimes we just need a day off.

  3. Nowadays, if the weather is nice, I'm riding or running. My high school x-country coach was a serious proponent of daily training. He used to tell us that when you skip a day, it sets you back two days in fitness. He cited "recent studies in physical therapy."