Rest Days and Race Days

Race is almost here, but you don’t feel like you can cross the finish line.  You training schedule says 13 miles today, but you feel like sitting on the porch and drinking coffee.  What do you do? 


Race day is just around the corner.  Your training calendar says you need to put in 16 miles today.  But all you want to do is sit on the couch and let your body rest.  What do you do?  You have that nagging thought that if you don’t keep up with your training plan, you will fail to accomplish your goal.  On the flip side, if you keep training like you have, you’re likely not even going to be able to walk by race day!  Maybe the best thing to do… is nothing! 

It doesn’t get mentioned very often, but rest is actually a vital part of your training.  There are several reasons why giving your body a break is a good idea, and it’s not all about your muscles.   

First of all, your body gets stronger when it is allowed to rebuild.  You train hard to break down those muscles and tissues.  If you don’t let them heal, that hard word can be wasted.  Breaking down tissues that are already in need of repair is a recipe for disaster.  A rest day is when your body is finally able to replenish lost nutrients and hydration, while also letting your body heal from muscle tissue breakdown.  That is how you get fitter and faster. 

As a matter of fact, running while your body is fatigued can sometimes cause unnecessary injuries.  You have likely gotten more efficient as a runner as your body adapts to faster times and better endurance.  This is how your body is supposed to react under normally athletic stresses.  But if you run while a part of your body is ailing, there is a chance that your gait will be off or you might be favoring specific muscles.  This can cause an imbalance.  That is a sure-fire way to not only remain fatigued, but also add an injury on top of the tiredness. 

Perhaps one of the biggest benefits of a rest day during training is for your brain.  After 4 months of getting up at 4am on Sunday to log 3 or 4 hours on the road, you can start to break down psychologically. You have probably given up time with family and friends, missed important events, and ignored your kids to get ready for one big race.  Give yourself permission to sleep in on a weekend and spend time letting your body heal (and maybe even blow your diet for a day).  Missing one, or even a couple of days, of training likely won’t impact your race finish time that much.  Skipping a run is an easy way to put joy back to running.  After all, we run to be healthy and have fun.  If you have lost the joy and are in constant pain, then you are defeating the purpose.  Trust me, the first run after a couple of days off can be one of the most enjoyable days of your entire training! 

So the bottom line is, rest is an active part of your training plan. Your computerized training plan doesn’t know your body or what you’ve been going through.  Training guides and just that, guides.  You must listen to your body.  Elite runners aren’t afraid to take a few days off and neither should you.  Running is supposed to be fun, so take a day off to bring the joy back.  Accept rest as a part of your training and never apologize for giving your body the rest it needs.