The Day of Rest: Runners and their rest days

I think they must schedule the rest days during the Olympic Track Trials just as much for the fans as the athletes…it keeps all us crazy track fans from going into cardiac arrest due to over-excitment. I kid, sort of, but there has been plenty to get excited about, stir up some controversy, and rise to your feet cheering for thus far and there is still more action to come. A part of that action will be the 1500’s and in case you missed it, here is my interview with Jordan McNamara who will be competing in those rounds.
men running
Though the topic of rest days, I think I’ll tackle those for now. The rest day can be a bit of a touchy subject amongst us runners. It seems really black and white, you either love them or hate them; I’ve also found that the people who fall one way or the other seem to feel insanely STRONG…you want to stir the pot right away, find a runner who believes the day of rest is akin to the second coming and merely state you don’t take days off. Try it, it can be fun. 🙂

That said, and now you probably know how often I take days off, there ARE more than enough, valid reasons to schedule in days off into your workout routine like you would hard workouts.

* Injury prevention: Running is tough on the body, one of the highest impact things you can do, and it’s repetitive. Everyone is different, ever body is different, and the amount of pounding you can take is unique to you. For some that threshold is very low and for others they can safely run 100+ miles a week. You can’t ever achieve your running goals if you’re constantly hurt, so if you know your body can’t handle running every day then, yes, obviously you should take those days off.
* Mental recharge: Running is very repetitive, some of us OCD people don’t find that a negative, but others do and there is something to be said for needing a mental break in the monotony. If you take your running too seriously you can in fact ruin it for yourself, get burned out, and you NEVER want to dread your runs. So if you know that you need a day to go AWOL to stay sane and wanting to run, by all means.
* Refresh those legs: Outside of injuries, some bodies just need a little more TLC or time to recover from workouts; that’s okay, and with running and training it’s about being in tune with yourself, and those legs. If you start to suspect you’re over-training and your workouts are nose-diving without some days off then maybe your legs are screaming for some rest days.
* Younger in years: I bring this up and it is of PARAMOUNT importance…the younger the runner the MORE days off they NEED. Is that clear enough? Running is a sport where patience wins out in the end and there are years of running to be had; outside of physical safety reasons (growing kids need to be careful of how much pounding they are doing) there are the mental ones with young pups. The younger the runner, even those beginning high school years included, the more the focus needs to be on bolstering a genuine passion and love of running…keep it fun. By doing so, you lay the groundwork for when they cross the threshold to being able to up their training volume. Because they have the passion for running coming from within, they will be self-motivated to continue the hard training.


Please, don’t get up in arms over this one either…let’s all remember sarcastic humor is the best humor! 🙂

So yes, I don’t discount the solid reasons that for some, total off days, or rest days, work for them and are needed. But I’ll tell you why I avoid them at all costs, and mainly for my own sanity…

* OCD runner: Admittedly, it’s probably bitten me in the butt a few times, but I feel my skin crawl on days I can’t get my running fix…I’m one of the people who HATES tapering. I’d do it of course for the sake of a race, but I feel my sanity start to slip. 😉 On the other side of that coin you can be darn sure consistency won’t ever been an issue of me. I love running, just doing it, and I just feel better if I get my sweat on. Also, let’s be frank here too, I love eating…and eating a lot…soooo, you do the caloric math there. 😉
* Distance specific mileage: If you’re a 1500 meter runner you don’t need to be logging the same amount of miles as a 10k runner or a marathoner. I like running longer distances and I feel more comfy in a higher weekly mileage zone. At a certain point you can only cram so many miles into 5-6 days a week, so if you’re looking to hit a certain total you may not feasibly be able to have a day off.
* Your ‘norm’: This one is harder to explain but I’ll take a crack at it. Many of my friends are runners and have been for years, and our ‘norm’ or what we consider business as usual is running every day regardless. Though your ‘norm’ could leave you thinking that I am insane or idiotic…that’s fine we all have our own ‘norms’. I guess it can also be explained by your training philosophy, your coaching theory, and group of runners. No one ‘norm’ is better than the other, it just is what it is.

Look there, I’ve offered up a pretty fair argument for both sides, in my humble opinion. There can also be some middle ground too:

* Cross-training days: Maybe your rest day is a rest for running and you still do cross-training for cardio.
* Outside the ‘week’ cycles: Other athletes don’t work off of the 7-day training cycle but maybe 10-day cycles; so instead of a day off every 7 days it’s one every 10.
* Active rest: This one I’m on the fence about including, but what the heck. For some people they make their ‘rest’ day one that they do something that isn’t exactly regimented working out but they still move. I think I’m on the fence about this one because it’s a double edged sword: if you’re reasoning for a rest day is to let your legs fully recover, but you ‘actively’ rest and are walking around or standing in the sun for 8 hours, I sort of think you’ll be zapped but in a different way…and at least if you had run some miles instead of your ‘active’ thing at least you would have had the running training…but just my opinion.

So maybe we can all just agree to disagree…or rather agree that to each their own! Please, all those who worship the rest day don’t come hunt me down, throw rotten tomatoes at me and explain that I’m both wrong and crazy. I mean, I already will agree with you on that second one. 😉

1) Rest days…do you schedule them in, do you embrace them, or do you hate them?

2) Give at least one reason as to why you feel the way you do about rest days.

3) Trials talk…let’s hear it! Some awesome first rounds in both the steeple and the 5k’s yesterday!
I have to say, I like too many people for only the amount of slots that can be filled, just saying…so it’s a bittersweet thing. Isn’t life always like that?

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20 thoughts on “The Day of Rest: Runners and their rest days

  1. Great post (as always!) – I find this a really interesting topic 🙂 I definitely have rest days from running, but I struggle with rest days from any exercise. Instead I have 1 day a week where I do very light, almost ‘incidental’ exercise, and 1 day a week where I wind back the cardio to focus more on strength training. But doing nothing for a day, I go a little stir crazy.

    • haha…u’re like me!! and for those light days, like u said it helps to at least do something where i can feel like i’ve moved and helped my running. 🙂

  2. I’m with you on hating rest days! Definitely a necessary evil though. I schedule 1 in each week, and even though I can’t stand it (it’s my grumpy day) I feel amazing on a Tuesday morning when I hit the gym again. Running or even cross-training is my chance to re-charge my brain and break up the day, so a rest day is awful.

    Do you think it depends on what you’re doing? I imagine it’s ok to not rest if you aren’t training hard for something specific.

    Keen to hear what everyone else thinks!

  3. I love rest days!! I only schedule 2-3 a month so I savor them. I try to plan them so I can put on yoga pants and a t-shirt all day long and enjoy not having to get dressed and changed 3-4 times in one day (double days I get changed so much!!).

    I am like you in that I want everyone to qualify for the Olympics but if I had to choose I would pick Galen Rupp & Lauren Fleshman.

    • haha…see, u i need a dash of u in me. 🙂 jk. that said, uhhh, i still lounge in yoga clothes or comfy clothes regardless of running or not. 😉

  4. I always embrace off days. Even at most serious, running 70 MPW training for a marathon, I almost always took off one day a week. Maybe a sign that my easy days weren’t quite easy enough? But it would always refresh me physically and mentally, and would give me a chance to do errands and stupid stuff that were hard to squeeze in on a running day.

  5. Rest days make the next days run that much sweeter. With every year, I’m resting more Yes, youth is wasted on the young.

    I also do very light days of a 5 mile run where I fully allow myself to take walking breaks.

    • i think that i share ur outlook on the super easy day instead of full off days…i just let myself plod at a pace and keep it low-key. 🙂

  6. Oh, what an apt post for this evening my dear friend! After being very regimented in my training last year when I was doing the half marathon I tried to keep a schedule going. However, I found myself falling into one of two camps, I was either being too regimented and scheduling a run or workout into everyday, or doing nothing because the schedule freaked me out. Now I have given myself a ‘flexible schedule’. I workout (mostly running) five days per week and allow myself two rest days. Essential for mental and physical health. I don’t feel guilty about these rest days because I know that I give it my all on those other days.

    • haha…black and white thinking….i swear, i don’t have that tendency at all. 😉 totally just kidding on that one!! yea, striking a balance is something loads of us type-A people can struggle with…so i’m so happy that now u’re being flexible with urself, it’s the best thing for ur body and ur sanity. 🙂

  7. Rest Days, I used to hate them but now I love them. I schedule 1 a week and that is just enough usually. But if I have had a really stressful and demanding week on my body I might take 2. I have just been listening to my body more lately and it has been guiding me to do what is right for me!

    • listening to ur body is the right way to go!! it’s a sign that u’re ‘maturing’ as an athlete too, part of getting the best for urself is becoming better attuned to wat the bod has to say…and then listening! 🙂

  8. i definitely need rest days. some weeks im loving running and don’t want to take them but i KNOW i function better with them so i just try to tell myself that if i am that excited to run…at least it has 48 hours to build:)

    loving watching the trials! it has been such a fun week and is getting me PUMPED for the olympics:)

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  11. Sundays are my rest days, and i love my sundays because come monday i am ready to roll and feel AWESOME but i HATE tapering so im not sure how i stand on these rest days =P

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