Rest Day versus Recovery Day
With today’s social medias, apps, GPS watches, constant social feeds, it’s easy to feel like we must always be pushing. As runners, we tend to thrive on our daily endorphin rush. Skipping rest and recovery is one of the biggest mistakes runners make. For active runners, it’s not always easy to immediately go from a non-stop to a complete rest day. The good news is that there are different options for recovery days.
The Importance of Rest Days for Runners
Most training plans include a weekly rest day. What happens on a rest day off running?
- Muscle healing
- Prevention of overuse injuries
- Increase of your performance
- Helps maintain your motivation for running
When we stop including a rest day or recovery day, our body gets frustrated because the equation of recovery is stress+rest=growth; without the rest, you only have stress.
Signs of Neglecting a Rest Day
- Elevated resting heart rate
- Poor sleep or insomnia
- Mood swing
- Feeling exhausted
- Muscle soreness
Depending on your fitness level, training goal, and workout intensity, the average runner needs 1 rest day/week. For some runners, during the building up of a training plan, an active recovery day can often be used rather than full rest. When the training plan gets more intense and the distances are longer, the total rest day is very import, to allow the cortisol to lower, get some muscle recovery, get more rest to feel more rejuvenated and energetic.
The Difference Between Rest Day and Active Recovery
Rest days mean focusing on daily activities, like work, walking the dog, doing errands. Keep it simple so your body feels comfortable. On the other hand, depending on your training schedule, and your fitness level, some runners can benefit from using active recovery. This type of recovery includes some easy exercise sessions that helps get the blood flowing to help with muscle repair. This is not the time to go all out on a high intensity session, simply include some low-impact workouts that still gets your blood flowing and benefits your running.
Benefits of Active Recovery
- Lowers the buildup of lactic acid
- Helps lower heart rate
- Retain strength and stamina after a hard race
- Improve mobility and flexibility
- Maintains motivation for exercising
Recommended Active Recovery Workouts
Cross-training: It is very beneficial to help prevent fatigue and burnout, activates other muscle groups that are not as activated in running. These workouts should never be intense, they can be as short as 10mins if you’re feeling tired or no more than 1 hour if you’re walking or hiking slowly.
- Bike ride, hiking or swimming slowly for a short time can help get the blood flow going and using different muscles.
- Yoga is a great way to relax, work on your breathing, open tight hips, increase flexibility, and stretching.
- Core workouts are an important base strength for runners. Stronger core, better running form, more energy saving, stronger performance and reduces the risk of injuries. Core workouts for 10-20 mins can be very efficient.
- Mobility and flexibility exercises also increase the blood flow. These exercises are dynamic stretches including some mobility movements like a forward lunge with a torso twist, or some exercises with resistance band. It can be very efficient to balance and strengthen some important muscles like glutes, quads, ankles and feet.
To include and alternate between a rest day and an active recovery day according to your training schedule and intensity is a great way to keep runners feeling good, with high energy levels, strength and flexibility.