Importance of rest days

By Nick Anderson

It’s very easy when training is going well to get carried away and run too much or to start neglecting the true value of rest. From 20 years of distance running coaching I can assure you that those who rest well recover quickly and strongly - ultimately getting fitter.

Rest is just as important as the training and the training doesn’t work without quality rest and quality nutrition to support the recovery period and tissue repair.

How much sleep do I need?

We now know from years of sports research that those who get 7-9 hours sleep a night recover more quickly and are less likely to break down with injury or illness.

It can take 3-4 hours of quality sleep to hit the phase where real tissue repair occurs and energy is stored fully. So spending 5-6 hours a night in bed only gives you 1-2 hours in the magic window. Sleep for 7-9 hours and you have 3-4 hours in the magic window and we see fitness build and you recovering quickly.

Can I still remain active?

Yes. We hope you will find time to walk about lots, stretch and even use the rest day as a chance to get a massage.

However, going to the gym and cross-training, or completing a couple of classes, isn’t rest. This is active recovery and still training. In fact it’s an easy days training and should not be mistaken for true and complete rest if that’s what’s advised on your schedule.

You need quality recovery from the longer runs and harder sessions each and every week.

Should I eat and drink normally on my rest days?

Yes, you should definitely keep to the normal eating routine, even though you’re not exercising.

Rest and recovery come from the combined components of quality food and taking time out. New tissue and energy stores are then replenished so please eat well and eat healthy on rest days with perhaps slightly smaller snacks. You will feel better for it the next day - I promise!

Is it wrong to take an extra rest day?

It’s never wrong if you need it. Your body is the best guide and source of information when training for a marathon or half marathon so listen and feel the signs.

If super tired and struggling to head out the door or put on the running shoes it might be worth taking an extra rest day or reducing your planned run to something easy. This might become a 30-minute recovery chatty paced light run with stretch after.

Our bodies are not an exact science and no training plan is ever written to be followed exactly. The plan is a guide so take extra rest if tired and extra sore from a long run or hard training.

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