Like any other sport or activity, running can become a habit that is done daily but the danger of overtraining is present when the runner does not give their body adequate rest. Rest is just as important as training and there must be a strict schedule to rest the body from a regular running schedule.
Initially running and walking intervals will be stressful on the body of the beginner and the running intervals should get easier with time, but this does not mean that the body is not taking strain from the repetitive strain and impact. Just as every runner needs to warm up before every session so the runner must also rest. As the runner progresses with the running program and the mileage increases, there will be more pressure to run daily, but it is important to take at least one day per week off running to let the body recover. No matter the fitness levels of the runner, it is always recommended that they take a day off exercise. Two days off running is recommended and one of these days must be complete rest or very low impact exercise such as yoga, pilates or stretching. Rest days can be used to read about running techniques or explore new programmes without actually getting off the couch as the bones, joints and soft tissues need to recover. It is recommended that the two rest days be spread evenly through the week and resting on a Monday and Thursday is an example of a good running program because it leaves time on the weekends for long runs with a recovery day immediately after. This means two or three days of exercise with a rest day between. Two rest days in succession is not recommended as it will be difficult to get started again after a 48 hour rest and the rest of the week will be heavy training. It is relaxing to go for a massage on a rest day or just lie down and read a book instead of hitting the road. Taking a day or two off running also gives the mind a chance to rest and reassess goals and running programmes.
Runners who do not take their rest days often suffer from overuse injuries such as stress fractures, plantar fasciitis or exhaustion. Repetitive strain on the body will weaken the soft tissues. This can lead to further injuries such as back pain or even burnout that will leave the runner exhausted for months. Rather prevent getting an injury by following the proper training program with adequate rest because injury recover will mean at least two weeks of complete rest.
Benefits of rest days include:
- Recovery time for the body
- Recovery time for the mind
- Family and friend time
- Less chance of overuse injury
- Less exhaustion
- Time to persue other interests
There are limitless things to do on this rest day, but exercising is not an option, unless it is something light like walking the dog or shopping. The body and mind need the rest to prepare for the sessions in future.