Monday, June 8, 2009

Rest: It Does a Runner Good

I know several runners who feel guilty if they take a rest during a training week so they'll cross-train or just do a really easy run instead. I've never had a problem with taking my rest days. Should I feel guilty? Does that make me less of a runner? I don't think so. Look at any training schedule—5K, half marathon, marathon, triathlon—they all have rest days. They're not there just because the creator of the training plan drew a blank and had nothing else to put down for those days. Rest days are a vital part of training.

Dictionary.com defines rest as "to refresh oneself, as by sleeping, lying down, or relaxing." The key word in this definition is refresh. Actually, a runner could replace refresh with repair, because that's exactly what a runner's doing on those days off—repairing, rebuilding, strengthening.

When you exercise you actually break down muscle tissue as well as deplete it of its glycogen stores and fluid. Bryan Heiderscheit, Ph.D., P.T. the director of the University of Wisconsin Runner's Clinic says, "It's when you're not running that the muscle rebuilds itself and becomes stronger. If recovery is insufficient, you'll break down more than you build up." Professional marathon and triathlon coach Joe English says, "Although it may seem counter-intuitive to many runners, much of the benefit of any workout comes in the time after the workout while the runner is recovering from it. It is during the recovery process that runners reap the benefits of the workouts themselves. Another way to think about this is that the improvement that is seen over time develops during the recovery periods between the workouts, so cutting that recovery short actually stunts the growth of the runner, by not giving him or her the time to develop."

If you've ever felt blah, disinterested, frustrated, or even depressed during your training, this could be a sign of overtraining. Elizabeth Quinn of About.com suggests that the following may also be signs of overtraining.

Possible Signs of Overtraining:
Washed-out feeling, tired, drained, lack of energy
Mild leg soreness, general aches and pains
Pain in muscles and joints
Sudden drop in performance
Insomnia
Headaches
Decreased immunity (increased number of colds, and sore throats)
Decrease in training capacity / intensity
Moodiness and irritability
Depression
Loss of enthusiasm for the sport
Decreased appetite
Increased incidence of injuries.
A compulsive need to exercise

Not only do rest days allow your body time to repair and rebuild, it allows your mind to rest and refocus. Training for any race, especially an endurance race, can be mentally taxing. If you're overtraining and experiencing decreased training capacity or intensity, then you're going to get frustrated. Depending on your personality, you may berate yourself, become sullen, or just quit because you're not seeing the progress you expect. You're telling yourself, "I'm working myself like a dog. Why am I not making any progress?" That's just it, you've just told yourself the answer to your problem but you're not listening carefully enough. You're working yourself like a dog. You need to pull back, re-evaluate your training plan and put in a rest day or two.

An easy way to tell if you're well rested is to check your resting heart rate each morning. If you notice any marked increased in your resting heart rate from its normal rate, this could be a sign of overtraining.

Make good use of those rest days. Take time to do some of the things that you've been putting off due to your training. Find that novel you've been meaning to finish since last summer or pick up a copy of Once A Runner by John L. Parker. I guarantee an afternoon of reading that awesome book will have you running like a new man/woman on your next training day! Okay, okay....if it will make you feel better, read it wearing your running shorts, singlet, and running shoes while sipping on a sports drink.

24 comments:

untpawgal02 said...

Over the past several years I've learned to appreciate my off day... not just from running but from cycling nd swimming too. Though I'd rather be training... I know that rest days are just a simple part of the training.

Mark said...

Great post! Off days are like an oasis to me. I take at least two a week now that I'm older.

RunnerDude said...

Hey untpawgal02! I know what you mean. It is hard, but you have a great way of looking at it...it's "just a s simple part of the training."

RunnerDude said...

Hey Mark! I love that..."off days are like an oasis." That's an awesome way to think of it!

Running Through Life said...

I need to follow this advice a bit more closely. I do often feel guilty on rest days.

I have been trying to get that book from the library but it has been checked out the past two times I have gone.

RunnerDude said...

Hey Running Through Life! It's hard, but add it in your plan. It will pay off in the end. Hope you get a copy of that book soon. You'll really like it. Do they have a waiting list at the library?

Turi said...

I've NEVER felt guilty about rest days, always planned two or three into a week of training. Lost some motivation recently, though, and noticed that I was starting to have more rest days than running days. In order to break out of it, I decided to try for a "streak." It's been 9 days so far - all of June. Surprisingly, I'm not missing the rest days yet. Bet I will by the end of the month...

chris mcpeake said...

I have learned to love my off day but it wasnt easy

behindtherabbit said...

a very timely post! I just took a day off and feel like I haven't run in a month. noticed I've been overtired, disinterested lately - a bad time, with an ultra around the corner. now I feel recharged!

Tanya said...

When I was a newbie runner I thought if I didn't run every day, I would magically lose all the stamina and conditioning I had gained. When I met an experienced runner and told him my "running plan", he said, "If your goal is to injure yourself, you're right on track." Then he recommended a running plan that gave me 3 days off a week and my running greatly improved. I now run 5 days a week and I'm pretty comfortable with that schedule. I think runners tend to believe that they must run every day because that's the way it works for other sports-if you want to improve at basketball or baseball, for example, you practice every day. Running is different-it's more intensive than most other sports and really requires that rest time. After 3 years of running I've learned it's ok to throw in an extra rest day if I feel like I really need it.

RunningLaur said...

Good recommendations. Sometimes it's yard to remene that rest is helpful - it's hard not to just run and run!

Jenny said...

this post just removed any guilt that i was feeling about taking today off as planned! but how do i work in cross training, 3-4 days of runs, *and* rest days? is it ok to overlap runs and strength work? (i've been out of the loop so long that i don't remember what i'm doing!)

RunnerDude said...

Hey Turi! Yep, have to be careful not to let the rest days take over the training days. LOL! The streak is a cool way to get back in the swing, but be careful not to over do!

RunnerDude said...

Hey Chris! I know man. Somehow in my brain at least I had to overcome thinking I was being lax.

Jo Lynn said...

I had a "rest" day yesterday. I don't like them. Running is my therapy so it's super tough to rest. I took my kids and dog for a little hike. It's hard not to run when I'm on the trail hiking. And don't even get me started on "tapering." UGH!

RunnerDude said...

Hey Behindtherabbit! Great! Glad I could help!! I know for me, it's hard not to think I'm being lax when I'm not running, but like untpawgal02 said, "simply a part of training."

RunnerDude said...

Hey Tanya! Great advice!! I love that..."If your goal is to injure yourself, you're right on track." I'll have to remind myself of that when I start to overdo.

RunnerDude said...

Hey RunningLar! Try to thing Run, Run, Rest. Run, Run, Rest. LOL!

RunnerDude said...

Hey Jenny! Welcome to the blog! I know it can be maddening trying to fit it all in. Kind of depends on what your goals are. You can definitely overlap strenght training with and easy running day. I'm getting ready to use the FIRST (Furman) marathon training plan. It has me running three days (speed, tempo, long) and then two days of cross-training and two rest days. On my rest days I can do some strenght training such as core and upper body just as long as I'm not working out the legs.

RunnerDude said...

Jo Lynn, Jo Lynn, Jo Lynn, what am I going to do with you! LOL!! When you're feeing guilty about a rest day, just remember Tayna's friend's quote "If your goal is to injure yourself, you're right on track." I do have to admit I admire your love for running! Very inspiring!

runnerinsight said...

WOnderful post! Off-days are indeed food to the soul of a runner! Thank you for the recommendations!

RunnerDude said...

Hey Runnerinsight! Sure thing! Hope you're having a great week!

I Love Your Whole Face said...

Or get the Bart Yasso book. Super inspiring and really funny too. Nice Post Mark!

RunnerDude said...

Hi I Love Your Whole Face! Bart has a great website too. Full of great stories.