How Important Are Rest Days For Runners?

by | Nov 21, 2023 | Featured, Run, Running Training Insights, Training "How To's"

SPOILER: Rest Days are more important than training days. Here’s why

Many runners (most even) get caught up in consistent training schedules and logging kilometres when they are looking to improve and reach goals. The mindset is often that ‘more is better’ and that belief that, that is how the goals will be reached. It’s not easy to slow down and ‘rest’ – here’s the kicker: Rest is crucial and understanding the significance of rest days is indispensable for every runner’s success and longevity.

The Physical Benefits Of Rest Days

Rest days are not merely gaps in training; they are strategic intervals designed to rejuvenate the body and mind. In short, these recovery days play a pivotal role in enhancing overall performance. Physiologically, these days offer the body the crucial time it needs to repair and rebuild muscles strained during intense workouts. Microscopic tears in muscle tissues, a common occurrence during rigorous running sessions, require adequate rest for recovery, allowing for optimal muscle growth and repair.

(c) Mohammad Yasir / Pexels

In addition, rest days mitigate the risk of overuse injuries that often plague runners. Continual stress on muscles and joints without adequate recovery time can lead to conditions like tendonitis, stress fractures and muscular imbalances.

The Psychological Benefits Of Rest Days

It’s not only the physical body that benefits; mental and emotional rejuvenation plays an equally crucial role. Running demands mental fortitude and focus, and constant training without breaks can lead to burnout, diminishing the joy and passion for the sport. Down days provide the much-needed mental reset, allowing runners to recharge and regain motivation.

(c) Gregory Pappas / Unsplash

How To Get Enough Rest

Striking the right balance between training and recovery is an art, not a compromise. Implementing recovery days strategically within a training plan is pivotal. This goes beyond just chilling on the couch – active recovery, incorporating low-impact activities such as yoga, stretching, or leisurely walks, can aid in promoting blood flow and easing muscle tension without exerting undue stress on the body. Find out more about cross-training and how to incorporate that as active recovery, here.

Ultimately, a well-structured training regimen integrates rest days. Another thing runners can do on a day-to-day basis to improve their training is to ensure ample, high-quality sleep.

(c) Oktay Yildiz / Unsplash

How To Get Better Sleep

Inadequate or poor-quality sleep doesn’t just impact running performance but also affects focus at work and mood.
Improving your sleep patterns can significantly enhance your running capabilities:

Sleep Enhances Speed: Stanford University’s study discovered that athletes who consistently extended their sleep duration for at least 45 days witnessed improved speed and coordination.
Potential Stamina Boost: Danish research suggests that while one night of poor sleep doesn’t directly impact performance, prolonged sleep deprivation can distort the perception of workout duration. Quality sleep aids mental resilience, crucial for endurance. If pre-race nerves hinder sleep, don’t fret! Stress impacts more than sleep loss. The night before a race holds less importance; aiming for restful sleep two nights prior is key.
Vital for Recovery: The aftermath of a sleep-deprived night affects hormones like Human Growth Hormone (HGH), pivotal in repairing damaged tissue during deep sleep. Skimping on sleep is especially risky for runners reliant on HGH for post-workout recovery.

Want to know how to incorporate rest into your training programme? Read this.

*featured image: (c) Morgan Sarkissian / Unsplash

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