June 16, 2023

Regardless of your level of running, here’s why rest days are vital.

Many runners have long lists of goals they want to accomplish. When looking at your list compared to your schedule, it is easy to breeze over rest days. Why would you slow down when you have so much to cross off your list?

The answer lies in the importance of rest days. Taking a break is as important as making time for longer runs. Rest days play an important role in strengthening your body as well as sharpening your focus. Rest days are also helpful because they give you time to recuperate so you actually want to continue with training.

Rest should never be skipped over. Each time you run, your body actually experiences a breakdown of a tiny amount of tissue. Rest days allow you time to recover after, making it possible for you to hit the pavement again for your next run. Your body needs time to adapt so you can get stronger (and faster if that is your goal). If you fail to take rest days, you may find you develop staleness to the idea of training, making it harder to stay on schedule. On rest day, your body also uses nutrients and experiences hormone and other biological changes to rebuild itself.

Regardless of whether you are a regular trainer or a recreational runner, there is good reason to take a day off each week (or more)!  Here are four of those reasons.

You Avoid Injury

Rest is vital when it comes to trying to avoid an injury. Rest days allow your body time to fully repair. The impact of running can stress tissues, which can increase cell turnover and forces the bone to become stronger. But your bones need time to repair. If you do not allow yourself time to rest, you may wind up with a stress fracture.

Your Muscles Have Time to Recover

You create microscopic tears in your muscle fibers any time you exercise, including when you run. Those fibers are rebuilt by your body in preparation for the next running session. This is great but there is a catch. The rebuilding response only occurs when time is taken off. Depending on the intensity and duration of your training session, your body needs a minimum of 36 hours to rebuild. Without rest time, your muscles will have no time to recover and will only continue to break down.

Tendons are Protected

Tendons are connective tissues that work to hold your muscle and bone together. They constantly work as you move but they do not receive blood as easily. This means that if they sustain injury, it can take longer for them to repair – another reason rest is vital. The constant beating that tendons incur during running can lead to chronic problems as a result of overuse, such as tendonitis,

Stress Relief

Running is a form of stress relief, but each time you run, cortisol (the stress hormone) increases in your body. The body does not know if you are running for fun or running from danger, so it amps up the amount of cortisol flowing through you. Increased cortisol can cause irritability, mood issues, sleep problems and other health issues if your cortisol levels become too high. If you over train without rest, you can offset your cortisol levels, causing unnecessary stress on your mind and body. Rest and recover to keep yourself in balance.