What is “Downtime”?

What is ‘downtime’ and why do we need it?

I frequently joke that as a coach, I spend most of my time telling athletes NOT to train. One of the most common reasons that we see for injuries and poor performance is overtraining. Competitive athletes are frequently wired to want to achieve more, train harder, and perform better. Unfortunately, increasing training volume does not always translate to improved performance. If that were the case, rather than racing, we could just submit our training log and see who did the most.

Rest days are an integral part of a proper periodized training program but many athletes forget to take it one step further. Downtime is an extended break from training placed strategically within a training year. Downtime allows all your body systems to recover dream a heavy training and racing load. Muscles repair themselves from damage incurred. The immune system recovers and returns to normal function. Finally, and probably most importantly, a mental break allows the athlete to rediscover other passions as well as their passion for their primary sport.

How to do it? Every athlete responds differently to training and recovery but we have some general guidelines that we use with our athletes:

  • Ultra-marathons are hard on the body. Really hard. When our athletes do a 50 km or 50 mile race, we recommend at least a week of downtime. A 100+ mile race gets at least two weeks.
  • The end of a season should correspond with a period of downtime.
  • Nutrition should be a priority during downtime. This starts immediately after completing the race, right through the prescribed recovery time. Eat what you need to replenish what was burned during the event and then eat healthy to allow adequate recovery.
  • Move, don’t train. Some of our athletes get quite surprised when we tell them to take two weeks off training. That doesn’t mean sit on the couch and eat chips the entire time. Once you feel restless, go outside, ski, hike, walk, jog, explore. We tell our athletes to get out moving but we don’t give them any structured training. Follow your nose. Don’t however skimp on stretching and rehab exercises – stay faithful to your foam roller!
  • Downtime is the perfect time to book in to see your physio. Get checked out and start thinking about maintenance and injury prevention for your return to training. It’s also a good time to get in for a massage.
  • The best indicator of when you are ready to return to training is how you feel. If two weeks pass by and you still feel sore or aren’t stoked on training, that is a good sign that you need a little more time. Frequently, recovery from a 100+ mile races takes three or even four weeks!
  • If you have completed your prescribed recovery time, feel good to go, and are psyched, get back into it!

So, don’t get too antsy right after finishing a race. Allow your body time to recovery and rebuild. If you give it the chance, you will be stronger and better prepared for your next training block or race than if you jump back into training too early. Follow these tips or get in touch with us to discuss a recovery program that will get you back on track!

Ultra-Marathon Plans

Our training plans pull from both our expertise in mountain and ultra racing and are designed both for the first time ultra runner as well as experienced runners looking to take on a new goal.

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