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Do I Really Need A Rest Day?

Posted by: on July, 27 2015

Found on RunnersWorld.com and written by William O. Roberts

How you schedule your recovery depends on how hard you’re training.

Shey asks: I’m not a big fan of rest days—I take one when I feel like I need it. Should I be scheduling a rest day into my week or is my philosophy acceptable?

That’s a good question. It depends on your goals. I exercise for my general health and I try to exercise most days of the week. Sometimes work, family, and personal conflicts steal a day or two of exercise from me each week. So my rest is not planned, but inserted into my program as my personal schedule demands.

recovery couch
But there is also a big difference between my training and a performance training program, which incorporates high intensity and high volume workouts to set PRs and achieve greater heights in physical performance. Runners with performance goals need to incorporate rest into the weekly schedule to allow the body to recover. It takes your body nearly 48 hours to recover from a hard effort. Sometimes, that may require “exercise abstinence”—a day of no activity. Other times, a low intensity alternate activity, like swimming or yoga, could give your body a break from running. The definition of rest may be relative.

Rest also includes sleep—an adequate volume and quality of sleep will improve training and performance. Good nutrition is also essential to keep you running well.

For you individually, taking a rest day when you need it seems to be working. If you are training well, not getting injured, and achieving your performance goals, your plan is probably safe for you. However, if you start to break down, add a designated rest day to your schedule.

This reminds of the “pancake story.” A top age-group runner came into the hotel café on race morning and ordered a stack of pancakes. He devoured the cakes and asked for seconds. Other runners seeing his fueling strategy also ordered and ate pancakes. As he was leaving someone shouted out, “Good luck today,” to which he replied, “Oh, I am not running today, I injured my leg yesterday. I am headed out to watch the race.” Point being: Do what works for you and do not copy your buddy (or rival), as there is no “one size fits all” in training.