When is it OK to Take the Day Off From Running

 Indian SummerSo I was faced with an interesting running dilemma today – to run or not to run.  I have been very consistent in my training thus far as I prepare for the Boston Marathon but today was tough.  I am usually very structured in following a training program and today was supposed to be my interval day.

I typically do interval workouts on the “dreadmill” or treadmill depending on your persuasion.  I was going to head over to the athletic club after work but remembered my daughter had a basketball game.

I figured I would hit the game, come home spend some time with my family, tuck the kids in and headed over and hit it hard.  The problem turned out to be I JUST DID NOT WANT TO GO!  After going through a heated internal debate on whether or not to head out I could not help of reflect on the question – How do you know when it is time to take a day off?

Rest is Important

I remember an old track coach of mine who was very emphatic that rest was an important component of training.  I believe he used say something about how he knew a lot of people that would rather have big numbers in their training logs than to actually perform well in a race when it counted.  Sadly, I can relate to that.

Rest is a very important component of any training plan.  Rest is what helps to prevent overuse injury and avoid the mental burnout that comes with over training.  In my personal training I have adopted the strategy to take one rest day every week and work my rear off the other 6 days.  For me that rest day comes on Sunday which happens to fall the day after I typically do my long run and helps to rest sore muscles, restore muscle glycogen, and shake off the metal fatigue that comes with running 20+ miles at a time.

As it turns out, taking a rest day every week is espoused by professional runner like Ed Eyestone who the current head cross-country team at Brigham Young University in Provo, UT.

I worked my butt off for six days to enjoy logging a zero on the seventh. I caught up on sleep and nursed soreness with massage and light stretching. The day was as crucial to training as a long run. I could push through hard workouts knowing rest was ahead. I started the new week physically and mentally restored—ready for whatever masochism awaited.  – Ed Eyestone

What is Overtraining

Put simply overtraining is when a runner (or athlete in general) trains more than their body can recover from and performance will ultimately suffer.

I am as guilty of it as anyone but highly motivated runners suffer from an obsession with their training.  There is a common misnomer that the harder one trains the faster they will become.  It seems logical but it puts us in a condition where we are actually doing more than you body can handle and if left unchecked, you body is going to take some time off with our without you consciously deciding to do so.

What are some of the Signs of Overtraining

So what are some of the signs that are your body’s way of telling you that taking some time off is a good idea?  There are several and several of them are outlined below:

  • Your resting heart rate is elevated
  • You are able to sleep well or you feel that you are just not getting enough sleep
  • You have a low general energy level
  • You get “moody”
  • Your workouts feel sluggish
  • You are sore or have persistent muscle pain

If this describes you it is time to take some time off…

Does Rest Hurt Performance

There has been a lot of research the shows that taking the opportunity to take a step back and resting does not hurt performance but actually helps it.

Research has shown that there is essentially little loss of overall fitness and performance until you take off more than a week or two.

I my own experience I have found that to be true.  Sure when I have taken a week or two off I certainly do not feel as sharp but in terms of loosing overall conditioning there has been negligible loss.

Should I Feel Bad About Taking More than One Day Off?

For me taking one day off a week is a given.  But what if you feel like extending that time off or taking a second day off in a given week.  In making that decision I try to take a step back and assess the big picture.  I ask myself the over training questions.  I try to honestly understand why I want to take an extra day off – I am burning out, am I tired, am I just being lazy?

I also look back on my running log – you know that thing my coach told me had ruined many an athlete’s performance – and see if there is a reason why I want the day off or if it makes sense in the context of my training strategy.  In looking back on my last few weeks I had logged 75+ miles last week, 72+ the week before, 52+ the week before that, and 71+ the week before that.  That is probably the most miles I have running in 4 contiguous weeks in my life and the 26 miles I did the day before yesterday still has me a bit sluggish.

So in the end, I think and extra day off is not going to hurt.  In fact, it is probably a good thing to avoid injury and keep my spirits high enough to keep hitting the training plan hard. Just a little juggling of the training plan to make sure I still get in my 3 quality workouts this week and presto, I do not have to feel bad about going to my daughter’s basketball game and tucking my kids into bed instead of marking extra miles in my running log.

In fact, that should be an additional criterion, perhaps not part of the over training criteria but if you are honestly debating between miss your kid’s basketball game or maintaining you training schedule for no other reason but to keep it pristine, it is time to take an extra day off.

1 thought on “When is it OK to Take the Day Off From Running”

  1. My Goodness! That’s a marked deefirfnce! I think I’d struggle to recognise you in the street . and I thought living in America would have the opposite effect on a person!Well done Savas, you must be proud of yourself 🙂

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