Resting, and why you should be doing it.

mikesankey's picture

It's been discussed a lot recently. You want to run (of course you do!) but maybe, just maybe you should stick the TV on and make a cup of tea.... Especially if it is the day after a race, when you expend the most energy and effort, and do the most damage to muscles.

Some people feel that a day off wrecks fitness; in fact, the opposite is true.

The loss of fitness and performance that occurs when you stop working out—happens until you take off more than two weeks.
When it follows difficult bouts of work, rest lets your body adapt to the work and improve. At least one to two days off every seven to 14 days restocks glycogen stores, builds strength, and reduces fatigue.

Without recovery, adaptation may occur short-term, but ultimately it will fail. And since most injuries come from overuse, a day of cross-training, rest, or easy miles can prevent three-or four-week forced breaks caused by, say, ITB syndrome.

So is a little running on a rest day okay? It can be. As long as you keep the volume and intensity very light, you can still get the recovery benefits. (The same goes for cross-training on a rest day: Keep it relaxed.)

Light recovery runs shouldn't be confused with base miles you log between hard workouts. Base miles—the staple of training—strengthen muscles, build endurance, and burn fat. The key is to keep the pace conservative.

Use the chart below as a guide - Then get back to work!.

Rest days and easy days reward runners with different benefits

REST DAY - How It Helps:


  • Prevents overuse injuries
  • Restores glycogen stores
  • Prevents mental burnout


How Often: At least once a week,twice depending on injuries and niggles  

How Easy: Off completely or 20 to 30 minutes (or 2 to 4 easy miles) below 60% of max heart rate (Bascially, little enough effort that you could carry off a decent conversation)

EASY DAY - How It Helps:

Builds base

Improves endurance

Increases blood volume

How Often: 80 to 85% of total weekly mileage

How Easy: 70 to 75% of max heart rate (conversational pace to slightly faster - when you can only get out a few words)

Even as a member of the coaching team - I learnt the hard way after Wokingham Half, going straight back into a 5 mile hard run the next day, and spent the next 3 weeks struggling to fix a semi-torn calf and hamstring, while logging a 1 mile week. So for a day or 2 of rest, the benefits are MASSIVE.