Why is it that runners are so stubborn about taking rest days –even when they REALLY need them? I know when I was younger, I used to run every day. Rest days did not exist in my vocabulary. My obsessive nature prevented me from taking a day off, as if I would somehow lose fitness from missing one day of running. In reality, the opposite can happen.
Recovery days are crucial for any training plan. During the process of training, muscle is broken down and is repaired during periods of rest. If you fail to incorporate rest or recovery days into your training, your body just keeps getting broken down with no chance to rebuild. You will end up feeling sluggish, flat, and your race times can also suffer. Lack of adequate recovery also suppresses your immune system, leaving your vulnerable to illness. It’s your body’s way of saying “Gimme a break!”
How much recovery time do you really need?
You should try to take at least one rest day per week (as in complete rest- no cross-training!), but listen to your body. For some people, one rest day is not adequate. Now that I am a thirty-something, I know that I need to have at least two rest days in my week or I risk injury.
What are other ways to allow your body to rest and recover?
Make sure that you are refueling your body after workouts, as necessary. Proper post-workout nutrition is key to helping speed your body’s recovery. You should also ensure that you are getting adequate hydration, which is key to helping your body flush out waste products. Other great recovery tools are ice baths, getting a massage, foam rolling or using the stick to workout any kinks or muscle soreness.
So, go ahead and kick your feet up and relax!