When you get into the rhythm of your routine, taking a rest day from running may be the last thing that you want to do. After all, you’re seeing small changes in progress every day and feeling great. I completely understand the feeling of wanting to keep the momentum going. Taking a day off now and then is crucial, though, for long-term success.
Years ago, back when I tried to do P90X, I went at working out hardcore. I would do P90X 6 days a week, followed by another 90 minutes on the treadmill. On my one day off from the hardcore workout program, I would still do 90 minutes on the treadmill. I just couldn’t allow myself to take a day off. I was terrified of losing momentum and progress.
At the same time, I was foolishly only eating about 1300 calories a day. I was following the P90X nutrition plan but cutting portions along with adding the extra activity. Why would my genius self decide to do something so foolish? Because I am not a genius at all. I am stubborn and thought I could outsmart the system to lose those last 10 pounds and see faster results.
The real result? No results at all. Not a pound down or an inch lost. My Month 1 and Month 3 photos were identical. There wasn’t even a smidge of muscle definition appearing. All of the work was for nothing. Two months of barely being able to make it up and down the steps and having to flop myself into bed because I couldn’t bend my legs had been pointless.
By this time, I was feeling frustrated, was tired all the time, and my muscles were sore. SO freakin’ sore. All I wanted a dang cookie and a big plate of pasta smothered in cheese and alfredo sauce. So that’s what I had.
Plus, about four additional cookies…
…and anything else I could get my hands on.
I doubted the system and running, and ultimately gave up P90X 2 weeks before the end. I wish I could say that a foot injury is what made me stop, but it’s not. No, I still pushed through the Plyo workouts and everything else with a foot injury caused by Plyo itself.
Let me rephrase…an injury caused by me trying to jump too high and push my exhausted body too hard. Especially when my body was screaming at me to give it a day off. Real genius status over here. I should come with a warning label!
But like I said, the injury isn’t what stopped me. It’s lack of progress that stopped me. I thought I was going to have my pity party day of eating allllll the foods and get back on track the next day.
Once I took one day off from my routine, that one day turned into two, then three. Before I knew it, a month had passed, and I hadn’t done one workout. My energy was low, my hair was falling out, and I felt like garbage left on the side of the road.
All of this could have been avoided had I just taken a rest day once a week. I should have read a book, put my feet up, maybe even gone for a swim. Anything relaxing to give myself a break from my heavy training.
I should have fueled my body like I was supposed to as well. But I was young and stubborn and thought I could ‘cheat’ the system. It ultimately ended with me not running or anything else for a few months.
Had I know then just how important rest days are, I likely would have been successful with the program. My running wouldn’t have taken a nosedive. I probably would have gotten the results that I was looking for.
HOW MANY DAYS FROM RUNNING YOU SHOULD TAKE
How many rest days from running you should take will look different for everyone. If you are new to running, you will want to take two rest days per week. If you are a more experienced runner, taking a rest day less frequently is perfectly fine. It all depends on how hard you are pushing yourself and how your body is feeling. Everybody’s individual needs will be different.
For me, taking two rest days per week is what feels right. I have tight hips and a tight lower back, so anything more than that, and I really start feeling it. If you are susceptible to injury, you might want to take it easier than you would like to. As always, check with your medical provider if you have any concerns or questions.
THE BENEFIT OF REST DAYS
Taking a rest day from running has multiple benefits. Taking a day off doesn’t have to mean binging your way through the latest Netflix series, though. Although it can! We just watched the second season of Dead to Me in one day. But that’s beside the point!
Some of the benefits of taking a day to chill are:
If you push yourself too hard too often, burnout can absolutely happen. With burnout comes motivation screeching to a halt. Procrastinating your run isn’t the only sign that you are burnt out. Let’s be honest, most of usput things off at one time or another!
Other signs of burnout are:
- Not feeling like running for days on end
- Feeling grouchy and snapping over little things
- Feeling worse after your workout
- Overall fatigue
- Not feeling like doing anything at all
Taking a rest day from running can help to ensure that this doesn’t happen.
Looking back, when I abruptly stopped my training, it was due to being burnt out. Once I took that one glorious day off, my body wanted more of it. It ultimately took me several months to start running again.
Taking rest days helps you to perform better. By giving your body adequate time to recover, you’ll be able to hit your next run stronger than ever. Your energy levels will be higher, and your mind will be clearer.
Taking a rest day from running can help to prevent injury. By not giving your body a chance to rest and recover, you risk the possibility of an overuse injury. If that happens, you’ll be needing more than just one day to recoup. Runners are also at risk for stress fractures due to the pounding movement on the pavement. These scheduled days off give your muscles and bones a chance to recover and make you a stronger runner.
ALLOWS MUSCLES TO RECOVER
All exercise, including running, creates micro-tears in the muscle fibers. As painful as those DOMS are, this is a good thing, as it means that when the muscles repair themselves, they will come out stronger. The catch is that to repair, those worked muscle groups need rest. This is one of the reasons why many heavy lifters don’t work out the same muscle group two days in a row. By taking a day off from running, it allows for your body and muscles to recover and make you stronger.
BETTER IMMUNE SYSTEM
Has your life ever been so hectic for months on end, that when you finally have a chance to breathe, you feel the first signs of sickness creeping in?
The same thing goes for exercise. By taking adequate rest days, your immune system won’t have to work quite so hard to keep you well on your training days.
Who doesn’t love a good night’s sleep? You know, those nights where your head hits the pillow, and the next thing you know, it’s morning. I can’t tell you the last time I had a sleep that good. What I can say is since I’ve started taking rest days, I don’t toss and turn all night either. There’s nothing fun about the alarm going off and feeling as if you fell off of a building.
It’s REM sleep that helps your muscles to repair themselves. By overtraining, your sleep patterns can go all out of whack, and you can miss out on the important REM sleep advantages. Even if you’re exhausted, exercise produces stress hormones, which make it more likely that you will have those restless nights. By taking a rest day (or two), it gives your body a chance to reset in more ways that one.
As you can see, taking a rest day from running is an essential part of your routine. Whether it is twice a week, once a week, or a couple of times a month, scheduling a day to chill shouldn’t be ignored. As anxious as the thought of a day off may make you, there’s no need to feel guilty. So what are you waiting for? Rest, take a leisurely walk, and settle in with a good movie. Your next run will be waiting for you on the other side.