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Do You Need a Deload Week?

As passionate runners, we all know the exhilaration of hitting the pavement, conquering that extra mile, or achieving a personal best. But what about those times when it feels like you’re running on ‘E’? That’s when you may be in need of a deload week.

What is a Deload Week?

A de-load week is a strategic reduction in training volume and/or intensity designed to enhance recovery and set the stage for future training goals. Picture it as a pit stop for your body—giving it the chance to refuel, recover, and come back stronger. I can’t emphasize enough how crucial these weeks are to your overall training plan.

Why Should You Incorporate Deload Weeks?

I often recommend deload weeks at regular intervals, typically every 6-8 weeks, placed strategically between mesocycles (those 4-12 week stretches of focused training). 

Here are few indicators it may be time for a de-load:

  • Your Performance is Dropping: If you notice a decline in your running performance despite consistent effort, it might be a sign that your body needs a break. A de-load week can help prevent physical burnout and keep you on the path to progress.
  • Workouts Feeling Disproportionately Difficult: Are your usual runs suddenly feeling like an uphill battle? It could be a sign of accumulated fatigue. Taking a step back with a de-load week allows your body to recover, ensuring you come back with renewed energy.
  • Feeling Under-Recovered: Listen to your body. If you’re experiencing prolonged muscle soreness, persistent fatigue, or other signs of under-recovery, a de-load week can be the reset button you need.
  • Poor Sleep Quality: Quality sleep is crucial for recovery and performance. If you find yourself tossing and turning, a de-load week may help improve your sleep patterns, leaving you more refreshed and ready to tackle your runs.
  • Mood Swings: Depressed mood, irritability, and anxiety are actually signs of overtraining. If you’re experiencing alterations in mood it may be a sign you need to recover. 
  • Loss of Motivation: Has the excitement and joy of running dwindled? It happens to the best of us. A de-load week provides a mental break, reigniting your passion and motivation for the sport.

How to Approach Your Deload Week:

  • Reduce Volume and Intensity: Dial back both the distance and intensity of your runs. 
  • Active Recovery: Incorporate activities like yoga, swimming, or cycling to keep your body moving without the impact of running.
  • Focus on Nutrition and Hydration: Use this time to nourish your body with nutrient-dense foods and stay hydrated. Proper fueling is essential for recovery. A common mistake athletes make is to withhold calories during these periods. 
  • Rest and Recharge: Don’t underestimate the power of rest. Allow yourself extra sleep and prioritize relaxation to maximize the benefits of your deload week.

Remember, a deload week is not a step backward; it’s a strategic pause that propels you forward. Embrace it, and you’ll find yourself returning to your runs with newfound strength and vitality.

-Keep running strong!, Dr. Greg.

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running physical therapist

Dr. Greg Ellis PT, DPT, CSCS

Performance Physical Therapist 

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