When you love running, and especially when you have a big goal in mind, you want to be committed to that goal. In fact, you don’t just want to be committed, you are, and its hard to even take it off your mind sometimes. Your days are based around it.
We want to prove just how much we want it, and society makes us feel like the harder we work, the more we prove just how bad we want it, the more likely it is to happen.
Except it’s not, and I share this over and over again. One of the main points I bring up whenever I am speaking actually, is that you prove how much you want something by being smart about your training, emphasizing that the day that matters, is the day you lace up your shoes on race day, not what you can prove in training.
Many runners struggle to listen to the signs you need a rest day, and I was no exception. I would feel like I was missing out, that others were getting in the miles, the training that I wouldn’t. I didn’t see the importance of rest days and maybe you are not taking rest days either.
But, I am always telling you:
“Your best races happen because of the accumulated mileage and workouts in training and pushing through on those days where you are struggling”.
If you don’t get to run on those days, how will you push through, what if you are missing out on another opportunity to push yourself mentally, to prepare for your race?
Well, rest days are part of that equation.
You have to ask yourself, what matters more. Your ego right in this moment, the NEED to run, the anxiety you get from not running? Or race day, getting to that start line healthy. What does your body NEED more? A recovery run or rest day?
Be honest with yourself.
If you or your coach has decided you need a rest day, if you know in your heart that is what is best, do it. If you had that gut feeling to say you needed it, but now you are backtracking, desperately trying to find an excuse, a reason why that voice was not the voice of reason, but the voice of sabotage, laziness.
Except it isn’t.
Usually the voice that gives you that gentle tap on your shoulder to say, hey, uh I don’t think this is a good idea, is right. Your body knows best, and your heart is the part of your body that can communicate with both the physical and the mental side of your being.
So are rest days necessary?
It might not be “cool” to take a rest day, you might feel like a slacker, a wimp, annoyed at your body for being unable to handle the volumes of training that others can, but actually, there are some real positives to taking a rest day, and many of the runners I know who do run less days are actually able to do more than those who feel the NEED to run every day.
Why? What happens to your body on rest days?
You give your body the gift of healing. You allow it to rest, to recover, recharge. And we all know that after weeks of not sleeping well, when a good nights sleep finally does happen, we feel ready to take on the world. Why can’t you give your body that same opportunity?
Maybe a rest day will give your body that time to get back to it’s strength, so guess what? It can now perform for you over the coming weeks, because it feels ready again.
There is a fine line between pushing through things and pulling back, being smart. I talked about this in a recent Tina4Real episode actually, and I will admit, it is hard to find the balance.
But taking an extra day off from working out is not going to do you any harm, and maybe it could do wonders for you.
I used to view rest days as the time I was falling behind everyone else. Now those rest days are enjoyable for me, especially in the summer. I can go a day without being sweaty, I get an extra hour to fill with whatever I choose, I don’t feel such pressure to squeeze everything in worrying about when to fit my run in, I can wake up and have a big breakfast right away.
The rewards are endless, and in a lot of ways, those rest days can be your most cherished days, the days you can peel your identity away from running to be something else that day, while at the same time, know deep in your heart, that actually, you are helping your running, without even trying!
So what about the crazy hunger that often accompanies race day?
The rest days are sometimes the days where we feel the most hungry, even more hungry than we do on the days we run. How can that be and should we keep calories down on those days? Calories in=caloreis out after all right?
Well, yes, but your metabolism is still working just as hard as usual, and it is working extra hard on this rest day to repair those tired muscles from your training in the days before, so don’t cut back. if you are hungrier on these days, take it as a warning sign that you probably didn’t eat enough the day before. So embrace it, enjoy some goodies and soak up that rest day, make the most of it.
What to do on rest days?
Put your feet up, relax, and do something else you enjoy, with a peace of mind knowing that you are being smart, you are wiser than before, and your running will thank you.
If you really have to do something, do a light yoga class, go for a walk, clean your house a little.
Just make sure you are taking your rest day seriously, it is just as important as your hard days. If you feel like you never get the break you deserve, your results never fall into place the way you want them to, you always end up injured. What do you have to lose?