5 Reasons Every Runner Needs Rest Days

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Rest should not be a 4-letter word. But to many runners, a day or two of rest can be almost as difficult as beginners trying to form the habit. Taking a day off (planned or unplanned) is as essential as taking a vacation from work.

Sure, we can toil seven days a week. Plenty of runners can do it seven days a week and remain motivated and uninjured. But for the rest of us, a rest day is just another piece of the training puzzle.

1) You need a mental break

Running is great to clear the mind of all the mundane things we get worked up about in everyday life. It can put worries at bay and release frustrations. However, regular running can creep into other the time of other activities and hobbies.

Sometimes a day or two to revisit old favorites is a great way to feel refreshed. Do something creative. Do something family-oriented. Do something peaceful. Do something fun. Just enjoy the break and know running will be ready and waiting.

2) Reduce the guilt

Perhaps if it’s been months since you’ve last laced up, your guilt might be rooted in reasoning. However, if you miss a training run on your carefully organized schedule and feel guilty about it, this is for you. Running (for the non-professional) should be an added bonus to life.

There are times you snooze through the alarm, you have to stay late at work, or your kid made it to the next round in the soccer championships. Rather than looking at them as missed workouts, look at them bonus rest days.

They are the snow days of the training world — scattered at random and with complete unpredictability.

3) Keep injury away

Rest and recovery are essential to keeping the body healthy. There are athletes able to withstand regular hard workouts without issue, but most of us need downtime to repair and rebuild the body.

That niggling pain or tight muscle can easily transition into time on the disabled list if ignored. Runners often fall into the trap of running through the pain, but taking a few days off early on can often reverse any harm.

4) Stay fresh

Endurance athletes often build on the principle of training while tired. Back-to-back workouts can help to simulate race day conditions when the body begins to tire after competing for hours.

However, this feeling is not one to mimic on every training run. If your easy run days begin to feel tough, take an extra one of those running PTO days. The feeling of fresh legs can jolt your training cycle back to life and keep both your body and mind in a happy place.

5) For reflection

For those of us who delight in filling up our training logs with big miles day after day, it can be difficult to look at the big picture. Each run kind of blobs into the next and they stop being special over time. Take a day off to reflect on your journey. We all started somewhere and those first runs were not easy.

Think about how far or how fast you can go now. If you’ve been on this journey a long time, reflect on all the amazing things your body has accomplished and continues to accomplish, run after run.

It’s easy to be ungracious until you want what you can’t have — be thankful for each day you get to run.

Carissa Liebowitz has run the Boston Marathon as well as dozens of marathons and half marathons. You can follow her running adventures on StravaInstagram and her blog.

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