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Thursday, May 16, 2013

Rest Days: Love Them or Hate Them?

Lena doing what cats do.  I wonder if she is worried her mouse catching abilities are deteriorating?
Cats have no problem taking rest days, in fact about 20 hours of their day is spent resting up. So they can be fresh for the 4 hours around midnight-4 AM, when apparently the 6 of mine are filming a new video for Lionel Richie's hit "Dancing on the Ceiling."  Runners must be the official opposite of cats.  We worry about rest.  How long to rest? If we cross train does that count as rest?  How many rest days before you lose conditioning? In order to really improve, do you need to rest after an intense speed work out?  What defines resting and tapering? What injury requires total rest, as in sofa, slippers, and potato chips for a week, and which can you cross train through using  the magic elliptical to maintain cardio stamina? I don't know about you, but just talking about all the concerns with running and rest is exhausting.  Now I probably can't run tomorrow.

I have a very scientific approach to rest, as I do to most things running, which you will no doubt know if you have read my blog.  I set out to run everyday.  Now pay close attention because this is where the science kicks in. I run unless I hurt bad enough or feel so tired that I don't.  I know it is complex yet simple.  I have to admit that is my career specialty: making scientific complexity understandable.  I once had a local news anchor tell me "I like interviewing you because you make the 'sciency' stuff less 'sciency'."  See you read a blog about running, and learn a new scientific term.  I am an educator at heart.   What I really use to decide is a combo plate.

If I get up and I am not raring to go.  I go through a very brief process:
I ask myself "Why don't you feel great."
Then I wait.  Most of the time my body will answer.  If any of those answers are the return of a pain I felt at the end of yesterday's run and it seems worse, I err on a rest day.  The reasoning.  I would rather miss one day then run today, do something really stupid and be out a week. If the answer is I am tired and yesterday's run felt a lot like running through the ball pit at Chucky Cheese, I say rest day.  I know instantly if I do that I will have renewed energy tomorrow and the run will feel effortless.   I made the too tired to run call on Wednesday.  This week at work has been crazy and I was feeling the drain.  This morning I was excited to run, even if it was 4:30 AM.  The run felt great, negative splits, effortless run.  I knew immediately the rest day was worth it.  Looking forward to the first weekend without rain and going on a long run with the hubby.  Sometimes you just have to be like a cat, maybe that's why cheetahs are so fast?


  1. Thank you.. this is timely. I'm coming off of resting/recovering from injury - and I feel so sluggish and disappointed over my last 2 runs. I think when things start to feel better and I get back up to pace, I will try to run more a week and use your strategy. :)

    1. Cool I am glad it helped. When I injured my ankle last year it took a couple of weeks until I was feeling like myself again.

  2. I am being very careful with rest days. I have a tendency to overdo things (or pursue things with an abundance of enthusiasm, if you want to be diplomatic about it). I realize that I risk injury or damage if I push too hard, so I have been giving myself permission to have regular days off. Now, I do get edgy or anxious on days I don't run or cross train (my legs are absolutely itching to move), but I do so much better after a day or two of rest.