Note: To me coaching is all about stewardship, using the knowledge and experience I have gained over 40 years as a runner, and 10 years as a coach, to help others pursue their running goals. So rather than publishing a book you have to pay for, I am publishing it here on my blog, free for all (runners and coaches alike) to read and enjoy, maybe learn something from it, or potentially have it prompt you to look at something from a slightly different viewpoint. If any of those happen, mission accomplished.
A long training cycle punctuated by a demanding goals race will often leave the body and mind tired and in need of a break. While we undertake training is a sustainable manner, a key to the 5 tenets we discussed in Chapter 1, periodically we need a chance to step back and refresh ourselves mentally and physically. A chance to recharge the batteries and ready ourselves for another training cycle. This is exactly what a Regeneration Phase is scheduled to do.
The hallmark of a Regeneration Phase is that no stress workouts are undertaken during this period of time. We do not do any long runs nor quality workouts, but rather rest and enjoy some downtime and some short easy runs and light cross training if desired. How much you run during this phase will depend a lot on your training level, how hard your last cycle was, and your mental fatigue level. Our bodies will usually recover better with some light running but sometimes we need a mental break from running more than a physical one. My advice is not to run until you want to run during a Regeneration Phase and when you do run keep it short and easy. Some take a week or more off and some run everyday, there is no right or wrong answer but rather what is best for you and your individual need during this phase. Light cross training is also fine during this phase, as long as you don’t physically push your limits. Easy swimming, biking or other cross training sessions can be a nice physical and mental change of pace during this time.
Often the Regeneration is a time without a lot of formal structure so the runner has flexibility to run or not based on how they feel. Obviously if you are like me and like and draw comfort from structure, then you can schedule out this time as long as you remain flexible with it. But for many it can be refreshing to not have a exact set schedule during the regeneration phase and instead relaxed and run when and if they want each day.
If a runner was to continue on working without a Regeneration Phase in their training, they would be much more susceptible to physical and mental burnout and would become more prone to injuries and illness. Just as recovery is an important part of the Stress and Recover Principle we discussed in Chapter 2, the Regeneration Phase is an integral part of the Hadley Liberty Training Cycle. It allows us to start our training cycle physically and mentally fresh and ready to get to work.
How long the Regeneration Phase last depends on the individual and their specific situation. Variables that play into that determination include:
- How long and hard (physically and mentally) was the last training cycle
- How taxing was the goal race from the last cycle
- Any injuries or lingering aches and pains from the last cycle
- The age of the runner
- The training background of the runner
- The level of work/life stress the runner has outside of running
In general a Regeneration Phase will last somewhere between 1 and 4 weeks in length. The runner wants to be sure to take enough time to feel mentally and physically recharged and ready to ease back into training. But at the same time the longer the phase the longer it will take to get back into training and the great the fitness loss. So the key is to take what you need but not to prolong it without good reason.
Having worked with hundreds of runners I have found a good rule of thumb usually is:
1-2 week Regeneration Phase
- Following a 8-16 week training cycle and
- Following a 5k to Half Marathon goal race
2-3 week Regeneration Phase
- Following a 16-24 week training cycle and
- Following a Marathon or Ultra-Marathon goal race
3-4 week Regeneration Phase
- Following a long goal race in adverse conditions (weather/course extremes) and/or
- 24+ week of longer training cycle and/or
- Period with high work/life stress and/or
- Recovering from minor injury ache/pain from goal race
I do not recommend racing during the Regeneration Phase, it is a time for rest, not for pushing your limits in a race.
If you have been in an extended break from training, for whatever reason, that counts as your Regeneration Phase in The Hadley Liberty Training Cycle. In that case you would then start your training with the Base Phase.