“More isn’t Always Better”: Why Rest Days are Critical for Success!
As runners we are constantly on the go and working hard to achieving our next PR or distance goal. Sometimes it seems hard to justify a day or two off when there are mileage milestones to be set, however, recovery is critical to getting the results you are looking for out of your training plan. When you run or do a workout of any kind for that matter, you are placing your body and muscles under intentional stress, especially when intensity is added (i.e. speed, incline, weight, etc.). This stress is placed on your body repeatedly with every workout, and ultimately is creating microscopic tears in your muscle fibers. This is why you feel sore after an intense speed session or after lifting heavy weights. After placing your body under this stress, it is important to take time to recover so that those muscle fibers can rebuild and repair themselves, ultimately adapting to the stress you are placing it under.
As your body adapts, your muscles grow and get stronger, and you will need to add additional intensity to the workout for it to feel like a challenge. This cycle is how you get stronger and faster as a runner and an athlete, and by taking the rest and recovery portion out of the cycle, you do yourself a disservice and place yourself at risk of injury. Below are four reasons why recovery is as important as the workout itself and what happens when you skip it.
- Lack of muscle re-growth: Whether you choose to recover or not, eventually your body will decide for you and will “create its own recovery” by recruiting other muscles to do the work when you run or lift weights. This is a problem because this means you are relying on smaller, often underused muscles, that are not meant to be the primary source of strength in a run. This is your body over-compensating and trying to give the sore muscles a break and can lead to injuries. Plus, it’s not as effective and you may notice a change in your performance abilities. An injury will cause you to be out a lot longer than a rest day would have, which is why it is so important to incorporate them into your plan.
- Feeling burnt out: Have you ever felt like you’re forcing yourself to go out for a run? Do you start resenting your workouts or training plans? This is a signal from your body that it may be time for a recovery day. Other signs are feeling constantly fatigued, not sleeping well, getting sick more often, or showing up to your workout and not performing like you used to.
- Mentally “over it”: When you over train, you may start to under-perform which can be frustrating. Not hitting your goal time or distance is disappointing and may even lead you to second guess yourself or lose motivation to achieve your goals.
- “More is not always better”: Think quality vs. quantity. If you run 4-5 times per week and give each run your best effort, you will be making the most of every workout and maximizing your time. This is much more efficient than running 7 days per week but not performing well during the workouts, ultimately leading to fatigue and that burnt out feeling.
All in all, according to NASM it takes 12 days for your cardiovascular endurance to become de-conditioned and over 12 days to lose your muscular strength. If you incorporate 1-2 recovery days per week into your training plan, if you get sick, or if you are extra sore and need to take an unplanned rest day, it is okay! In doing this, you will be helping yourself get stronger and prevent injuries. Don’t fear the recovery day, but instead embrace it and take the time to refresh, refuel, and recharge so that you can continue to perform at your best in your next run!
Written by Ashley Morrison
Ashley has over 17 years of running and racing experience and is both NASM CPT and RRCA Certified. For more running tips and tricks, find Ashley at Run With Ashley on Instagram or on her website and blog.