A Necessary Evil: Rest Days are Important

After six days and 64 miles’ worth of training, today is finally being used as a day that actually makes me just a little bit cranky, but I feel that it is CRUCIAL to have them in a training plan. What do I speak of? The dreaded rest day.  A lot of runners seem to be against them, and with good reason. Running makes you feel good, it lifts your mood after an otherwise craptastic day, and it’s that something I actually look forward to after a long and stressful morning. So when a rest day finally rolls around I tend to feel cranky, edgy, and believe it or not, bored. This is especially true when I feel like I easily COULD run for a seventh day in a row, or even more than that. But I think it’s so important to take a rest day at least once a week, no matter how good you feel.

Sorry guys, I know that #runstreak is a huge thing that a lot of people are doing (let’s see how many consecutive days in a row you can run at least one mile, and from what I have seen on my Twitter feed, some are at 3+ years and keep going), but I am dead set against them. I think it’s just asking for trouble, especially if you are prone to injuries, aches and pains. To each their own, but it’s not my thing at all. I think I would lose my motivation and get completely burnt out.

I am not an injury-prone runner. If anything I think I am a fairly smart runner. I listen to my body, I take a rest day when I need one (once I had to take a rest week and then some), and have managed to run multiple marathons in a year, keep a high-mileage schedule on my training calendar year-round, and continue to run pain-free. I am at the point where I feel that I can confidently train for an ultra, which has been a dream I’ve had for years but was too afraid to pursue.  Sidenote: I will admit that having good running shoes are probably one of the reasons I have been doing so well in the past 5 or 6 months, as I have fully made the transition to running exclusively in Hoka One Ones, but that’s another issue. Your shoe doesn’t make you invincible, but the right ones can certainly make you feel that way! I think that’s why Hoka’s motto is “Time to Fly!”

But I digress: the reason for this entry is simply that I want to set a good example as a runner. I want to be someone that others feel they can come to with questions. And almost any professional running coach will also stress the importance of rest days; even high mileage plans like Pete Pfitzinger’s or words of advice from extreme ultrarunners like Dean Karnazes have rest days somewhere in their repertoire.  I am the first to admit I am extremely stubborn and hate the idea of resting  (especially when I don’t feel the need for one), but I also know that I love running so much that the idea of NOT running for 2 – 6 months because I pushed myself into an injury is enough to keep me grounded. I always have way too many events on my calendar, and I want to make sure I can run ALL of them unless something comes up that’s out of my control (like a wedding, family trip, inclement weather that prevents travel, etc.); I never want to miss a race because I’m sidelined due to my own stubborn folly. So rest I do, and my body just keeps on going strong.

I do sometimes practice what is called an “active rest day” because I really hate sitting around on a nice day. This may involve low-impact activities like yoga, stretching, cycling, light hiking, roller blading or even a long walk. I think these activities are just fine, as long as you aren’t putting too much stress on your body. Other times I literally do nothing and just take that time to run errands, work on food prep, and even things I always want to do but never seem to have the time to do: play a video game, watch TV, read a book, etc.

I just have to keep reminding myself: That one day will NOT kill you to sit on your ass. You won’t gain 5 pounds in a day. This is needed in order to accomplish your long-term goals.
Take that rest day, lose the mindset that they aren’t productive. Your body is healing, it’s preparing for another week of training, and I assure you it’ll be much happier. Trust me on this.

And #runstreak-ers, I do apologize, because if it works for you it works, and I applaud you for doing what you want to do. But I just have to allow myself that day to chill, and in the end it’s worked well for me. I encourage all of my fellow runners to do the same.

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