A blog by runners. For runners.

Why you really (really!) need rest days

If you’re anything like me you find it hard to take days off from your training. When I first started running, back when I was younger and my body was more forgiving, I ran six days straight every week without so much as a ounce of cross-training or stretching. When I took a day off I was a total couch potato, not even going for a walk. It was a very inefficient strategy and by the end of each week it was like I was running with fifty pounds of concrete attached to my legs.

As I got older I began to second guess my strategy. I was always tired, something was always aching and the race goals I was setting weren’t being reached. It was around this time a co-worker and fellow runner asked, “what are you doing on your rest days?” “Rest days?” I responded with a sarcastic little laugh. The concept was that foreign to me. I truly believed if I was a runner, all I needed to do was run and everything else would fall into place. That conversation spawned the upheaval in my training regiment.

Here are a few of the benefits I’ve discovered through giving my body the rest it needs and deserves:

  1. Rest days enable you to check in with your body. We often push our bodies beyond their limits because we feel we need to get in a certain amount of mileage or number of workouts per week. Taking a day off gives you the chance to honestly ask yourself how you’re feeling and then listen to your body’s response. It’s easier to be honest about how you’re feeling when you give yourself the opportunity to rest.
  2. Rest allows for your muscles to recover after hard training days. During this time the body adapts to the new pressures you put on it during your runs. Rest days give the muscles the time they need to rebuild and come back stronger than ever.
  3. Rest days can also aid in avoiding injuries, especially those little nagging ones. By mixing up your training or taking a day off, you work different parts of the body, avoiding nagging injuries from constant repetitious movement.
  4. Rest days give you the chance to do other activities that benefit your running. Like yoga! A slow vinyasa or yin class on one of my rest days challenges my body in a completely new way, plus the added stretching feels amazing on tired muscles and joints.
  5. Taking a day off helps you enjoy run days even more. I found that after a day of rest I look forward to my runs and am more enthusiastic about my training then I am if I continuously pushed myself every day.

Everyone is different. I have friends who run every single day without becoming fatigued and others who run two days a week and are still racing amazing times. What worked for me may not work for you, but there are plenty of amazing benefits to be had when you take some time to rest and recover that I encourage you to at least consider a rest day.

Written by Lisa Horvath.

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