I can’t stress the benefits of rest day enough. Training seven days a week is a recipe for disaster. You might as well just roll out a welcome mat for injuries; your body doesn’t get a chance to recover properly. Think about it: if you’re a runner pounding the pavement every day, when do your legs and joints get a break? Even if you mix it up with strength training, you still need at least one day a week of doing nothing.
I took two of those days over my birthday weekend, unusual for me but desperately needed. I was tired, crabby, and needed to recharge my batteries. Normally, I take one rest day a week, and here’s why. I end up overtired, cranky, and unable to get decent sleep if I overtrain. I feel chronically run down and unable to function. And I end up eating too much of the wrong foods, which do absolutely nothing to help my energy levels. I need that one day a week to meander around my neighborhood or do some mobility work. Or just nap.
How to Get the Benefits of Rest Day
I mentioned that on my rest day, I like to do some mobility work. Movement on rest day is not a bad thing; it helps correct imbalances that you may be ignoring. Something like going for a walk, gentle swim, or leisurely bike ride is a great way to maximize the benefits of rest day. Gentle yoga, stretching, and foam rolling are also good choices.
Nutrition is also key on rest days. You may think you don’t need as much food (or that rest day equals cheat day), but that’s not true. What you do need is a slight reduction in calories and carbs (10 percent should be plenty), and maybe a boost of lean protein. You’ll also want to hydrate as much as you would normally. The idea is to let food repair your muscles.
What, No Cheat Meal?
I actually don’t eat my cheat meal on a rest day. I eat it on my long run days, then spend rest day trying to eat healthy foods to help repair my muscles from the beating they’ve taken during the week. It’s not to say you can’t eat your cheat meal on a rest day, but on a day when you’re not being as active as usual, it may make you feel sluggish and bloated.
What do you do on your rest days? How many do you take a week? Sound off in the comments!