Have you ever felt just so, ridiculously, unexplainable tired? Like so tired you can’t really function that well? Where you are just fantasizing about a nap, or when you’ll be able to crawl back into bed? Guess what.. even the fittest, most hard core athletes get tired and stop! When these days happen… you are exhausted and you NEED to listen to your body. Hill repeats and tempo runs and crosstraing and all that good stuff are indeed part of the program… but guess what… SO ARE REST DAYS!!
If you are feeling anxious about the thought of a day without exercise. You should read this. The reason why I am writing this blog is because I am guilty of it most of the time. On rest days I have been known to get anxious, feel guilty, compulsively think about how I should be exercising ect. However this year I have been working with a run coach and I have started to learn how important rest days are. By giving it my all on my training days, rest days have become imperative to becoming a stronger athlete. Topics like these are just one of the many important things we touch on in our online training group if you are interested in training smarter!
Rest and recovery IS part of health and fitness.
It can be process to accept the need for rest days, especially when we are training for a big important event. We can become so fixated on our goal that we get training tunnel vision. It can feel like by taking a rest day you aren’t progressing, that by not training you aren’t building anything. However, it is in fact the complete opposite. It IS part of the process and you NEED rest days to undo the damage you do on your hard training days, to rebuild your muscles and replenish your glycogen stores. I will be the first to admit I really struggle with rest days. Some weeks an active rest day might be enough, or counting a day when you are at work as a rest day. Depending on how active and hectic your job is, you might be running around all day on your feet. How is this an effective rest day? Good question… it’s actually not. So this is where the guilt sets in for me. If I am not using one of my days off to be out there doing what I love, training in the mountains, I feel guilty. Training every single day can lead to athlete burn-out and injury and can actually delay you in the progress you are trying to make. It is time to change your mind set and soak in all that rest day has to offer. Bottom line is, if you don’t take them you won’t get stronger.
It is really easy to get caught up in the idea that daily intensive exercise is the ideal.
It is too easy to fall into the trap of thinking that ‘more is better’ when it comes to exercise. There can be a fear that a day off or an easy day will negatively impact fitness goals or health. Once you get into the habit of exercising on a daily bases or are training for a big event, it can be hard to justify taking a day off. However, no matter what training plan you look at, none of them are going to have 7 days a week of intense exercise. It is simply not sustainable. Balance is the absolute key in living a happy, healthy and fit life. I will admit that sometimes my passion and relationship with exercise and running can be a bit obsessive. Rest days I often feel restless. These are the days that I make myself “adult”… and by that I mean get all the things done that I put off to go running every other day! When running is such an important part of your life, a day without it can feel like there is something missing. It is easy to become obsessed with training and running and a day off can seem like a set back, but it is absolutely not! Use these days to be productive! Take a stab at that to-do list, do a do-it-yourself project you’ve been wanting to do, do something, anything other than training hard!
Why are rest days so important?
Repair and replenishment leads to improvements. Recovery, rest and light activity days allow your body time to repair and replenish, which is imperative for any improvements. They aid in muscle development, and muscle repair. Running and exercises actually causes micro tears in the muscle fiber and tissue. Rest periods allow the body to repair this damage and thus build stronger muscles. When you are training hard for multiple days, you are also using up your bodies glycogen stores. Rest days help drive glucose back into the muscles and cells to replenish energy. You’re not allowing your body to get the full benefits of your training if you’re thrashing it all the time, and you’re sending your body into your next training session depleted if you’re not allowing enough recovery in your week. And of course… you need to listen to your body. If you want your A race to truly to be your best performance, start taking those rest days seriously!
Your routine should be tweaked and changed according to so many factors including:
- energy levels
- stress levels and other mental health factors
- whether you’ve lost the enjoyment, or it’s waning
- amount of sleep you’ve had
- if you have an event coming up
- or have just completed one… (and so many other factors!)
It’s not about sticking to the routine no matter what. You need to let go of feeling like you lack commitment or ability if you have to veer from your plan or routine. You shouldn’t feel guilty about easy days, or days without exercise – it’s intelligent training!
How do you know you need a rest day? It is a good idea to take a rest day if…
Nagging injuries, fatigue, lethargy, frequent bouts of illness, a drop in exercise performance can all be signs of over training. Many people can suffer none of these symptoms for a long while and then crash. Your body sends you a signal. The old saying, no pain, no gain, is not entirely true. Mild soreness after exercise is normal. Pain from pulls, strains or overuse is not normal and should not be ignored. It is better to take a day or two off than it is to risk an injury that will sideline you for weeks. Your mind needs a break. Again, with exercise balance is the name of the game. Even with fitness there can be too much of a good thing. Keep your routine fresh with variety and regular rest breaks. A rest day may help prevent exercise burnout.
What should you do on your rest day?
Our bodies need and like to be in motion but it doesn’t always have to be intense. And your rest day doesn’t have to be entirely just laying on the coach.There are many ways to do a rest day!
- Go for a walk or light hike
- Restorative yoga or light pilates class
- Light cross training
- Try stand-up paddling or kayaking
- Rock climbing for a few hours
- Reconnect with friends, visit family
- Work in the garden
- Get those big chores done you have been putting off!
- Pick up a different kind of hobby that isn’t exercise related
Bottom line here is to really pick something you love so that you won’t feel so guilt about not exercising and will instead trust that you are doing something good for your body!!