Rest days should be a part of every runner’s training schedule. Rest days are days off of running where you recover from your weekly running mileage and allow your body to adapt to your training. Without proper rest and recovery, the body will not adapt, which could lead to plateaued performance, general fatigue or injuries. Although rest days may seem self explanatory, there are more ways to maximize your recovery than by simply not running. Listed below are my tips for how to make the most out of your rest days.
Plan Your Rest Days
If rest days aren’t planned in your training schedule, they are less likely to happen consistently enough to be effective. From my experience, it can be easy to forget about rest days and continue training until you become overly tired. Arriving at your rest day completely exhausted heightens the risk for injury and could be a sign of overtraining. Designate at least 1 day per week to be your rest day or follow non-weekly cycles, such as 4 days running, 1 day rest.
Avoid Strength Training on Rest Days
On rest days your body should be using its energy to recover, so avoid activities with high energy demands such as strength training. I like to schedule my strength training on hard training days. This way I apply activities with high energy demands together and can recover fully on the days following my hard days. Keep hard days hard and easy days easy.
Recover Better With Mobility Exercises and Light Cardio
Mobility exercises, such as toe walks, forward lunges, runners’ touches, or cariocas to help you feel loose and springy and and fire your neuromuscular system in the same way as running. Doing these exercises consistently can help you run more efficiently. My personal favorite mobility exercise in my daily routine is called the “mummy walk.” Watch the video below to see how it’s performed. Keep your posture upright and the leg in the air should have toes flexed upwards.
Light cardio can boost recovery by improving blood flow to your muscles without stressing them too much. I suggest 20-60 minutes of light biking, aqua-jogging, elliptical machine, or cross country skiing on rest days.
Follow the Extra Scoop of Peanut Butter Rule
I’ve mentioned this recommendation in a previous article and following it will help improve your energy stores on rest day so you can recover better. I encourage eating more than your average caloric intake on rest days. If you’re like me and love nut butters, this means enjoying an extra scoop of peanut or almond butter. You could have an extra scoop of Nutella, Gelato, or whatever foods you like. The goal is to remind you that even though you’re doing less exercise on rest days, your body is working hard to adapt and recover and could use the extra energy.