Some people despise exercising. Others are addicted. A happy medium is obviously the healthier choice, but even those who don’t consider themselves addicted may get down on themselves when they let even one day slip away that they don’t workout.
When I fall asleep at any other point than nighttime, my body is telling me that it needs rest. Sometimes I can’t help but listen.
Rest days are something I used to struggle with a lot more than I do now. I always had this guilty feeling like I couldn’t eat normally that day or I got antsy because the weather was beautiful and I wasn’t sweating it out on the road. I still should probably get much more sleep than I currently do, but I have disciplined myself to take at least 1 day off a week for recovery and mental rest. Even someone who loves running as much as I do needs a mental period of rest to avoid the rut of not running for several days or weeks. This used to happen to me all the time!
To avoid forgetting to take rest days when I’m race training, I write the rest day into my training plan for the extra accountability. If adjustments to my training plan occur, I simply move the rest day to a nearby day that I know I could use a rest such as before a hard day or after one. Amby Burfoot, 1968 Boston Marathon winner and running guru, once said, “You could spend a lifetime regretting the days when you continued running; you’ll never regret the three to seven days of rest.” He was speaking about resting or easing up when dealing with even a minor injury, but I think his main point can be applied to rest and recovery in general terms as well.
For runners, triathletes, swimmers, cyclists, crossfitters, rock climbers, speedwalkers, and everyone else who has a heavy weekly training regimen, taking a rest day is important for so many reasons. Let’s keep it short and dive right into the top 3 reasons why I think you shouldn’t neglect the rest day.
It’s Important for Muscle Recovery and Strengthening
If you think exercising and working out is helping you become stronger and more fit…you’re not entirely correct. When your body is able to rest (and I don’t mean the 2 minute rest in between track intervals) it is also able to start repairing muscle damage accrued during your workout routine. When you run, lift weights, etc., you’re actually breaking muscle tissue and that tissue needs repairing if you want to continue your healthy lifestyle. Have you ever gone out for a morning run after a previous hard day and feel like your legs were lead? You probably could have benefited from a bit more rest.
Taking an entire day off to recover is a great decision for the benefit of your body’s health. This doesn’t mean, though, that it’s necessarily okay to lay on the couch all day because you don’t want to use the leg muscles you use for running. In fact, walking is a great way to also help your muscles recover because it will promote oxygen and blood flow.
It Can Help Reduce Risk of Injury
Exercising hard every day is a lot on your joints and muscles. Inflammation increases in the body after you run–this is natural–so you want to give your body the opportunity to reduce that inflammation and to prevent injury. Proper nutrition can help reduce inflammation, but rest is also essential. Stress fractures, strained muscles, soreness, tightness, and other injuries are much more likely to happen when you keep your body in overdrive every day without turning off the engine. Speaking of engines and overdrive…
It Can Help You Avoid Burnout
If you’re running and working out 7 days a week, there’s a good chance you enjoy what you’re doing. There’s an even better chance that you at least enjoy the results of your efforts. But there’s always the chance that doing too much of what you enjoy doing can result in burnout. Hopefully you like your job; most people hope to. Do you think you’d want to continue working there if you didn’t get at least one day a week to yourself where you didn’t have to report to the office or check-in with your co-workers? You may have no choice due to bills and other responsibilities, but your feelings about work and productivity would likely take a turn for the worse if you suddenly found yourself in that situation.
Too much of a good thing, may not actually be a great thing. If you love running or any other type of exercise, you’re more likely to continue loving it by giving yourself at least one rest day–one day to recoup. Think of it as a mental health day. The best part is that your exercise of choice is not going anywhere. It will be right there waiting for you tomorrow and you’ll be much more refreshed to take it on!
A rest day when on a vacation is never a bad thing. Especially when you have certain amenities to take full advantage of all day long!
So give yourself some TLC and treat yourself to some weekly R&R…You won’t regret it!