By Jason Koop,
Head Coach of CTS Ultrarunning
One of the challenges to writing about training is that every subject could legitimately expand into a book unto itself. My shelves are full them; entire books on physiology, biomechanics, nutrition, periodization, performance assessment and analysis, sports psychology, stress relief, and yes, recovery. Arguably, what you do between individual efforts, between workouts, and during the many hours you are not exercising is more important than what you’re doing when you are.
There are 168 hours in a week, and even at the high end of the training spectrum, it is rare for any endurance athlete to exercise more than 35 hours in a big week or more than 25 hours on an ongoing basis. Exercising–inclusive of running, strength training, yoga, pilates, or other complementary activities like cycling, swimming, soccer, etc.–between 25-35 hours per week is still only 15-20% of the total time available in a week. It is far more common for ultrarunners to exercise for a total of 10-15 hours per week, some even fewer, which represents only 6-9% of the week. That means for most ultrarunners, you are basically sedentary for 91-94% of your time.
When I lay this scenario out for some runners–particularly Type A personalities–their instinct is to view it as a challenge: “How can I increase the percentage of time I spend exercising?” They get standing desks, do lunges for no reason, and a calf raise or two every time they encounter a set of stairs. But that’s not the challenge. The time you spend running is rarely the limiting factor for performance, and just spending more time running is rarely the most effective or time-efficient way to improve performance. The challenge is how to use all that time you’re not running to maximize the quality and effectiveness of the time you are.
One aspect that touches almost all of the time between runs is how we deal with stress. As we head into winter with fewer daily hours of daylight, colder temperatures, an unfortunate resurgence in COVID cases, and even uncertainty about 2021 running events, stress relief is a major issue for athletes.