Thursday, 24 January 2013

Rest Days Optional??

It had been a busy week. Yesterday I spent 5 hours on the bus traveling to and from Red Deer to attend a meeting. Usually all that sitting would bother me but I was tired and had scheduled Thursday as a rest day so why not take the time to read blogs and news feeds right?

The idea of rest days has been on my mind since Tuesday when my coach dropped the bomb that not everyone needs rest days, and the academic and coaching community is on the fence about whether they are right for all people. So you might need one rest day, your friend who is just starting out might need three, and a veteran runner might not need one at all or cycles them in every 10 days or so.

Wha!?! This was news to me. I thought the body needed a rest day. I celebrate the rest day. I think I told you guys before that I usually build them in.  But then I got to thinking - does my body actually need it? Is it my mind that needs a day off?? And where is the research that can tell me more.  Here are a couple of tid bits (note this is for running only, I am sure things like cross fit etc. have entirely different stressors on the body and reasons for recovery):

On his rest day, German Silva, who won the 1994 and '95 NYC Marathons, ran an easy three miles, keeping his heart rate below 60 percent of max. These jogs may not boost VO2 max, but they loosen up the muscles to fend off sluggishness. (Runners World)

In preparation for the 2011 Boston Marathon, Ryan Hall used an online recovery-tracking program called Restwise, which looks at simple biological markers input by the athlete first thing each morning, calculates a daily recovery score from 1 to 100, then trends it over time (find out about RestWise here)

How Runner's World defines a rest day: Off completely OR 20 to 30 minutes (or 2 to 4 easy miles) below 60% of max heart rate.

Another option: cross train or participate in a low impact form of exercise instead of running (hello Zumba!). These days are considered to be forms of rest because they give the joints and muscles commonly used in running a break.  NOTE: this does not = simulating a Timetrial on your bike : )

Want to read more: 10 things that Runners World suggests you track or pay attention to  to determine if you need a rest day.

What I think: 

  • What does my head say? If I have a really bad run sometimes going out the next day will boost my confidence or sometimes I decide it is a sign to take a day off.

  • What is my body saying? If I start a run and I have 'heavy legs', my breathing won't normalize and my heart rate is acting strange I usually cut it short.

  • Other considerations: because of my previous troubles with iron levels, I sometimes have to consider that my tiredness may be due to low iron.   We can talk about that more later, but it is a women's problem that I need to read more on.

Do you take rest days? I would love to have a conversation about this!



  1. I was also always under the impression that a rest day is no exercise at all...but as I'm racing and moving up and chatting to elites they are doing easy sessions on rest days which I began to implement and I saw the benefit, I got stronger...however doing this you must have a good base of training...this lead me to training hard two days in a row then rest..

  2. Excellent point! I agree that building up a strong base is a must. I also agree that after a really hard session (like speed training) I usually need a rest day. It is hard on the legs and joints.


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