Do you ever feel guilty when you take a day off from running or working out? Almost like you’ve done something wrong? Or maybe it just throws off your routine. Maybe you get grumpy and hangry. In the back of your mind you know that the body repairs and strengthens itself in the time between workouts, but you just really don’t want a rest day. Guess what – for the most part you really do need to take that rest day. The world’s best runners know the importance of rest days and down time, so follow their lead.
Rest days are critical to sports performance in more ways than one. You need rest both mentally and physically. Not to mention, if something is truly hurting, rest is the best way to heal. Pushing through injuries because you just feel like you HAVE TO run is how you end up with serious injuries that knock you out of the game for lengthy periods of time. Plus, did you know that your gains in fitness actually happen during your rest days? So why wouldn’t you take these days?
Too few rest days can lead to overtraining which can cause burnout and injury, not to mention the mental trap of believing you’re a failure if you skip a workout. You don’t want to be in this boat. because someone forgot to put the plug in and you're going to sink. Training causes micro-tears/damage to your body tissue. Without adequate rest and recovery between sessions, the body begins to break down. So, if you’re set in the mindset that a rest day or two will damage your training, it’s time to reevaluate and start focusing on what your body really needs.
You’ve probably figured out by now that you can train more consistently when you’re not injured. Plus, there’s a well -known saying that you can only train as hard as you recover. When you give your body adequate rest and recovery, you’ll be able to adapt and absorb more hard training over time without running the risk of overtraining. By doing this, you’ll be more likely to nail that PR. Sounds like a plan to us!
So let’s talk recovery. When it comes to recovery, there are two categories – short term and long term recovery.
Short term recovery is also called active recovery. This occurs in the hours right after intense exercise. Basically, active recovery refers to engaging in low-intensity exercise after workouts (during both the cool down phase as well as the hours/days following the workout). During this time, you need to replenish the energy stores and fluids lost during exercise as well as work to help your body efficiently optimize protein synthesis. You need to feed your body the fuel it needs to recover and repair. During this time you also need to ensure you’re getting quality sleep and taking care of any little nagging injuries that might be bothering you.
So what is long-term recovery? Long term recovery refers to techniques built into a seasonal-type training program. A well designed training program will include recovery days (or weeks after a big goal race). This is also the reason coaches add safe and effective cross-training days and change schedules throughout the season. Doing the same workouts and runs day after day leads to both physical and mental burnout. Take some time off after a major goal race. Throw in some extra crosstraining. Try some new workouts. Keep it fresh, and keep your body healthy.
Here’s the thing – your body is capable of so much. But you have to treat it right. When injuries begin to pop up and you run through them thinking they’ll go away and they continue to get worse, what are you telling your body? It’s like you’re saying “Hey body – I expect this from you, but I’m not willing to give you the time you need to make it happen.”
When you don’t take rest days and you see your times in workouts dropping, you can’t stay with your running buddies, you’re consistently exhausted, etc – what are you saying to your body? You’re expecting your body to do these amazing things that you ask, but you’re not allowing it the time to recover and heal so it can perform to your high expectations. Take care of yourself if you want to grow as an athlete. Respect the recovery day, and use it as a chance to mentally unwind.
Rest days are a big deal. Recovery is important. You need your body and mind to be strong and able to perform the tasks you’re asking. So, if that means putting your feet up a day a week and relaxing – do it, and don’t feel bad about it. It’s part of the process.
If it means taking several days off to help heal a small injury before it becomes major - do it. Seriously. You're not going to lose much, but look at what you can gain.
Speaking of mental relaxation, tonight is going to be a wonderful time to visit together as we try new recipes from Run Fast. Eat Slow. See you soon, team.
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