Rest days from running. We all know they are important (hopefully!) but some of us like them less than others. Personally, I look forward to rest days but I don’t actually like how I feel on the days I don’t run or work out. But I know that they help me to recover and run better on my hard days. One question runners often have is how to schedule rest days from running. How many rest days a week should a runner take? Should a rest day just include lounging on the couch or doing some kind of active recovery?
Why Rest Days From Running Are Important
In order to really buy into your rest days, you probably need to understand why they are so important. Running and working out breaks down our bodies in many ways, and we need certain things like rest, food, and sleep to help them repair and rebuild. This process is what helps us to actually make improvements. If we just run day after day, our bodies will eventually break down or our fitness will just plateau.
There are some runners who don’t take regular rest days and still run well. Generally, these runners are the exception and not the rule. There are also runners who do well with active recovery days. I’ll talk about that more in a moment. But the key is to understand your individual needs at whatever point you are in of training. The number of rest days you need each week make vary based on your training, mileage, etc.
Full Rest Days or Active Recovery?
Active recovery is when you do light exercise such as walking or yoga on a day off from more intense exercise. There can be benefits to this, but it’s not always necessary. First, if you are only taking 1 days a week off from intense exercise then you really need to make sure that day is focused on true recovery. It may be tempting to walk little too far or push yourself a little to hard in a yoga class that is meant to be easy. If you don’t truly keep things easy on those days, you won’t really get the same benefits as you would from a full rest day.
If you take more than 1 day off from intense exercise each week a good strategy could be to do active recovery, or even light cross-training, one of those days and completely rest the other day.
Give yourself a mental break
One of my favorite parts about rest days is not thinking about running or working out on that day. I try to let myself sleep in and use the extra time to do other things. If I schedule active recovery it kind of takes away from that. But there certainly are rest days where I go out for a stroller walk, but its because I choose to and because I have the time, not because I have to. I try to make this one day a week completely pressure-free from exercise.
How to Schedule Rest Days from Running?
Now that you have that information, you can start to think about the best way to schedule your rest days from running. There are a few things to think about.
Where are you in your training right now?
If you are running high mileage or training for a big race, you may opt to just take 1 rest day a week. However, you may also consider running your mileage over a fewer number of days per week and adding in a second rest day or an active recovery day. For example, one runner might be running 40 miles a week over 6 days of running, but another might get in 40 miles in 5 days. Figure out what works best for you.
Need help coming up with a workout schedule? Here’s How To Create Your Own Simple Training Plan
Are you in your off-season?
If you aren’t training you have some more flexibility with rest days. You may want to take a few rest days a week or spend 1-2 days a week cross-training. If you are keeping your mileage low and your runs easy, you may be able to get away with running 6 days a week. I was able to do a 1 month run streak when all my runs were easy and my mileage was low, but I made one of my runs each week just 1 mile. Run streaks will probably not set you up for achieving race goals, so if you choose to do one its best to do them during a time of lower mileage and easy running.
You may also like: 3 Fun Interval Running Workouts For the Off-Season
Rest Before or After a Long Run
Many runners like to take a rest day either before or after their long run. Doing both is ok too! I noticed that sometimes if I rest the day before my long run my legs feel sluggish early on, but usually I feel strong by the end. I like doing an easy run the day after a long run, so I usually plan my rest day 1-2 days before my long run. You can experiment to figure out what works best for you. This can also depend on your schedule. If there is a certain day that you have less time to run, that might make a good rest day.
Keep a Training Log
Take note of your runs and rest days to track how you feel each week. This can help you see what kind of schedule works best for you. You may need to test out some different schedules, but try each for a few weeks so you can decide whether or not it worked for you.
Don’t be afraid of unplanned rest days!
Finally, keep in mind that unplanned rest days are ok too! It’s important to have your rest day planned so that you don’t accidentally skip it, but it’s also totally ok to take extra days off if you need them. It’s not worth pushing through pain, exhaustion, etc. just to get in a certain run. By ignoring our bodies and running too much we can end up injured or overtrained.
How many rest days do you take each week?
Do you completely rest or do active recovery?
Are you open to taking unplanned rest days?
Now it’s time for the Runners’ Roundup! Link up your running and fitness posts below! Join myself, Coach Debbie Runs, Confessions of a Mother Runner, Runs with Pugs , and Laura Norris Running to post your favorite running tips, experiences, race and training recaps, workouts, gear, and coaching ideas.