Rest and Recovery Days – Why, How and When to Take Them

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For keen runners, sometimes a rest day can feel like a lost day. A day of missed training.

But when properly integrated into a training plan, rest and recovery days are as crucial as the training itself. They hold the key to improvement.

Risk of damage

It goes without saying that if you continually push and push without giving your body some respite, then you risk overtraining, which in turn can lead to all sorts of problems from loss of motivation to injury.

There are no physiological gains to be made by training when your body isn’t recovered enough to execute the session well.

With training, you essentially want to be recovered enough from the previous session to tackle the next session strongly and in a way that helps you grow and improve. If you’re not ready for the training, you risk injury.

Warning signs

Signs that you may be taking things a little too hard and that you need to ease off include:

  • Excessive fatigue (more than is usual for an average training session)
  • Abnormally low or high heart rate
  • Runs feeling unusually difficult
  • Quicker onset of fatigue
  • Low motivation
  • Increased time to recover.

If you spot any of these, continuing to push on through without addressing the cause may lead to overtraining.

How to integrate rest and recovery

While there’s no overarching rule that covers everyone, a general rule of thumb is that you should be taking at least one full day of rest – i.e. no training of any kind – each week.

In addition to this, if you’re following a training plan, you should ensure that at least one week in every four is a week of reduced mileage and intensity. Reduce overall volume in these weeks to around 50-60% of the previous week, and ease off the intensity too.

These weeks help your body to grow stronger and prepare for the next phase of training.

What about recovery runs?

Recovery runs are runs done at a very easy pace. They can help to ease any stiffness in your muscles from a long or hard session the previous day.

They can be very effective in recovery and getting your body ready for the next effort. It’s really important that you keep the effort really comfortable and don’t be tempted to turn it into another hard session. Head out for a fairly short time and just run for pure enjoyment.

Recovery runs can be done the day after hard sessions, as well as the day before a hard session to get your body ready.

But you should still ensure you get at least one – and often more – full rest day a week. Both rest and recovery days in combination with other session types will add real value to your training.

Train smart and hit your goals

Everyone is different and you’ll need to train in a way that works for you, based on your experience, ability, and goals.

There is a sweet spot of optimum training effort that sits between not doing enough and overtraining. If you operate within this sweet spot, you can be sure you’re heading for success.

If you’d like any support with your training or if you have any questions, send a message in the box a little further below!

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