The effects of training, good or bad, are unfortunately not often realized until the runs are over and forgotten. Runners are deceived into thinking that what they are experiencing DURING the run is an indicator of their current strength, fitness and health, but this isn’t always true. Yes, you may have reached a new measure of success during a specific training run, but it’s crucial to wait a little bit to see just how strong you really are…most often about two days.
I refer to this as the “two day effect”. I’ve lost count of the times I’ve had an absolute amazing training run, whether a ten mile tempo or set of super fast mile repeats, felt on top of the world, and then two days later I have a run stopping “issue” (I hesitate to call them “injuries”) as I stressed my body during the run and didn’t feel the effects until later.
The two day effect isn’t always a negative association though. There are specific workouts that may leave you completely fatigued and weakened in the moment, but two days later, when the adaptations sought during the training have set in, you may then find yourself stronger than ever. In this regard, I’ve also found certain workouts that have left me tired also left me wary of my ability to complete another workout two days later, but once started I’m able to run with incredible strength and speed.
This effect is enabled by the regenerative processes of the body. During our workouts, no matter how good or bad we feel, we’ve put stresses on our bodies that need to be repaired through muscular regeneration or compensated for with capillary growth. Those repairs and adaptations take place in our times of rest or even during the recovery runs we complete the following day, which makes them so important. If we fail to schedule these following recovery runs or complete them without a proper recovery pace, we compromise those adaptations and risk injury when we begin our next difficult effort.
With all this in mind, my runners can expect to see days off leading up to their goal races (and other longer race efforts) and days off when the race is completed. These days off prior to race day allow all the necessary adaptations and rest to be created within the body, setting them up for the most prepared race effort possible. The days after the race are even more crucial, as they allow for physical repairs to take place, and reduce the risk of injury when starting back training.
Sometimes my runners have such great races that they can’t wait to get back to training and see what else they can do, but I do my best to convince them of the importance in holding off and allowing the recovery process to take place. When they are ready to run again, I make sure to start them off with easy running and no hard efforts in order to continue that recovery process without compromising fitness, and then a week later (or more depending upon race distance) I’ll start incorporating harder efforts again.
Finally, marathon runners know very specifically what the Two Day Effect is. The marathon distance puts such a strain on the body, that even if you feel good upon completing the distance, the delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS) becomes VERY apparent in the following two days when simply walking up or down stairs is dangerously tenuous.
Runners should celebrate the strength and fitness they feel during hard workouts, but never assume the strength they feel at the end of the workout is what to expect going forward. It takes a restrained mindset to know that muscular damage and the need to rest oxygen delivery systems comes after the run and the best way to continue running strong is to allow that recovery time, to prepare for the next hard effort, without risking unforeseen injury.