Updated: May 28, 2021
Taking rest days and utilizing recovery runs in your training can be critical to preventing injuries and optimizing your running gains. While hard training is an important part of training, adequate recovery is essential to keep yourself healthy and prevent physiological breakdown.
For most runners rest days and recovery runs can be a mental battle. Miles make the runner but miles can also injure the runner, and injuries can prevent the runner from running. The solution is to use both full rest days and recovery run days to structure training. Here is how to think about rest and recovery.
Breakdown & Recovery
Training hard for more than a few days in a row can cause physiological breakdown to build until performance falls off and training becomes counterproductive. In this case overtraining and overuse injuries are usually the result.
The same stress that breaks us down can also help build us up. Adequate rest and recovery allow our bodies time to adapt to the breakdown and come back stronger and better than before, resulting in improved fitness.
Recovery Runs vs. Rest Days
Some runners prefer solely recovery days, substituting slower runs at anywhere from 50 to 75 percent of maximum heart rate for true days off. Here are the pros and cons of recovery runs and rest days.
Help accelerate the recovery process by increasing blood flow to the muscles.
Can have some aerobic benefit.
Still involve impact and cause stress on the body even at the slowest pace.
Allow your body time to recover and adapt to weekly runs.
Give your body a break from the impact of running.
Help decrease risk of injury.
Incorporating Rest Days & Recovery Runs
Depending on your fitness level, rest days vary from 1-3 days every 7-10 days of training.
If you are a less experienced or injury prone runner, two rest days a week might be needed.
These days can include walking, foam rolling, stretching, and other modalities that feel good to you.
Avoid impact activities (HIIT, Crossfit, Bootcamp, Tennis, etc.) these are considered hard/high impact workouts and can hinder running performance and do not give your body the recovery it needs to adapt to your running training.
Can be done the day after a hard workout to help your body get blood flow moving and help remove metabolic waste from the muscles.
Should be done at 50-75 percent of maximum heart rate.
Focus on running form and breathing evenly, try to run at conversation pace or use the heart rate mentioned above.
Recovery runs and rest days are vital to optimal running performance and injury prevention. It can be hard to slow down for those recovery runs but it is important not to go too quickly and give your body time to adapt.