async="src="/ Taking the Long Way Home: Why Runners Need to Take Rest Days from Running

Monday, October 12, 2020

Why Runners Need to Take Rest Days from Running

Much like politics, there are a few subjects about which runners disagree widely. Fueling, training, and rest days are probably the three topics where you can ask a group of runners their opinions and you'll get an earful. While preparing this post, I went to the running boards on Reddit to see what the community had to say about running and rest days. I found the discourse fascinating and opinions were mixed, but the overall consensus was that if you are a recreational runner, you should take regularly scheduled rest days. 


I've been running for close to 30 years and if I've learned nothing else about running, I've come to value the importance of rest days. Even prior to my diagnosis with rheumatoid arthritis, I leared how important rest days are for keeping me healthy and happy. 

Rest prevents injuries. Running puts a lot of stress on the body. Besides the pounding on your feet, running causes microtears and inflammation in the muscles and tendons. Overuse injuries such as ITB syndrome, shin splints, plantar fasciitis, and stress fractures are more common in runners who don't take rest days. Research shows that running greater than 30-39 miles per week for women and greater than 40 miles per week for men greatly increases your risk of injury. Been there, done that. 

Rest helps facilitate adaptation to hard training. In other words, rest allows your body to absorb all the goodness from your training. Got DOMS? It's not a badge of honor, it's a sign from your body that you need to rest. That doesn't mean you have to spend a day on the couch. You can do a variety of activities on your rest day. Keep it low impact: biking, walking, hiking, cross training, strength training, crossfit, OTF, swimming, yoga, and pilates are all good examples of things you can do. Even easy runs stress the body.  Me, I like to avoid the pounding on my rest days. I don't count my CrossFit/strength days as rest days.

Rest days can prevent burnout. Training sometimes feels like a job, doesn't it? Rest days make you reflect on your running and look forward to hitting the pavement again. I schedule my rest days around my work schedule. While I look forward to my rest days, I can't wait to run again after that!

What about streaking? Personally, I'm not a fan of streaking, but a lot of runners participate in run streaks. The important thing is to build in easy runs 1-2x/week in your run streak. Don't push hard every day. Use those easy runs as recovery runs. Slow and easy. Did I mention those should be easy?

Speaking of rest, make sure you're getting enough sleep too. Sleep helps your body recover from running by repairing tissues, regulating hormones, and reducing inflammation. If you're having trouble sleeping, it may be a sign that you're overtraining. Need tips on improving your sleep?  

Even the elite runners take rest days. You should too!

Do you take regular rest days? What is your favorite way to recover? Do you run streak?

Runners need rest. Here's why @oldrunningmom #running #runchat 

I'm linking up with Kim and Zenaida for Tuesday Topics and with the Runners' Roundup: DebbieDeborahJenLaura, and Lisa.  



28 comments :

  1. Yes, we all gotta do these things our way, even rest/recovery days. It's great there are no hard and fast rules on this, but common sense is definitely paramount. I love my recovery days...and chance to take things easy and reflect on all the hard stuff my body has carried me through.

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  2. Yes, I agree with "no running" rest days! I find that for me, "recovery" runs don't speed up the recovery process.
    On my rest days, I walk, stretch and do a bit of yoga. I feel so refreshed when I hit the road the next day!
    I like that you included sleep, too. That's one of the reasons I keep my Garmin on 24/7, so that I can monitor my sleep and I see the 7-day average.

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    1. Like you, I don't find 'recoveryl runs helpful for recovery. My body likes its rest!

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  3. Never have done a streak and never will. I want to run for a long long time. I rarely even run two days in a row.

    So I only run 2-4 days a week. On rest day, when the weather is nice, I either take walks or go hiking.

    Today is rainy so I may just REST.

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    1. You seem like the energizer bunny to me--but I'm happy to hear that you do take time off!

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  4. Mondays are my rest day--no work outs at all. The only reason I break that rule is if I know I'll be completely unable to work out on a specific day later in the week. So then that day becomes my rest day.

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    1. That's how my Tuesdays are! It's an early work day and I don't like to get up at 4:30, lol. Every once in a while, tho, I have no choice.

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  5. I'm not a fan of run streaks either. I tried one a few years back - I think it was the holiday one between Thanksgiving and New Years. My knees hated me and I started to dislike running. That's how i knew it wasn't for me.

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  6. I'm not a fan of streaking either - I think the longest I lasted was a week. My body needs a break from the pounding!

    And yes to the importance of sleeping! I find that when I'm not sleeping well it's especially important that I take a rest day (or two).

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    1. Sleep has been such an issue for me! It definitely takes a toll on my running.

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  7. 100% agree. I believe in rest days so much that I take two of them every week. I don't think I've ever run more than 7 days in a row, and my body is definitely not a fan so never say never but I don't think that streaks will be anywhere in my future. Plus I always get an extra "oomph" the day after a rest day, so that's always a nice side effect.

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    1. I guess it's a good thing that my schedule really 'prevents' me from running every day. My body would not be happy with me if I did!

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  8. Pre-menopause I ran almost everyday. Now I'm good with 3-4 times a week with cycling and yoga thrown in the mix, and at least one complete rest day. My marathon PR happened when I rode my bike on my "easy" run days.

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    1. Pre-kids I always ran 5-6 days per week. Then it was 4 days; last year with my never ending flare, I dropped to 3. Happy to be back to 4. It's definitely my sweet spot!

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  9. I have never attempted a run streak and it's not particularly something I want to accomplish... I believe that rest/recovery days are too important and I rather have a varied workout schedule than trying to run 1-2 miles every day.

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  10. You know I'm a really big believer that most runners push way too hard (and sometimes I've been guilty of that myself). OTOH, right now, as I'm nearing 60, it's all about figuring out what the right amount of good stress (aka exercise) is the right amount for me.

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    1. It's really individual--and some of us like to push ourselves! I know I can't do that every day, tho, which is why I love my rest days. And my crosstraining days.

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  11. I sometimes struggle with rest days honestly. I feel guilty about not moving daily. I have come to realize how important they are and why I need them and I am on a personal mission to take them more seriously

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  12. I agree that rest days are so important! I'm attempting a run streak for October but one of my days is like 1 mile of super easy running. (And the streak is only a month, if I make it that long!) Usually I look forward to a rest day, but this is a fun challenge... Although I will have no problem cutting the streak short if something starts to bother me!

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    1. Because CrossFit has been having us run, I've been incorporating more run days into my schedule. The distances are short, tho and it's not even a mile usually. I still like to take some time off.

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  13. You're preaching to the choir here. I definitely advocate rest days. I see many people who take "active" rest days that really need to back off a bit. I think if you end up pushing hard seven days a week, even if you're cross training, you're looking for trouble (meaning a potential injury or burn out).

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  14. I always take at a weekly rest day - an actual rest day, not an "active" rest day. I'll take a walk, but that's it. I'm not a huge fan of streaking because it's really not productive to ignore rest!

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  15. Now that I've been injured, I do take my rest days a little more seriously. I find that a daily walk on the days I'm not running does help me stay loose and flexible, but I don't push it. I don't want to do any more damage.

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  16. Well this streak is going on for 48 days now so we'll see how long it lasts. I've tried before to do one but it did not last long.

    Thank you for linking up with us!

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