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Rest Days: What Exactly Do You Do?
Over the years, my thoughts on rest and recovery days have been all over the map.
In my late teens and early twenties, I rarely considered the option of even giving myself a so called rest day. I did too much and I felt burned out. No surprises there.
After my injury this year, something sort of clicked inside me and I started to appreciate taking rest days. I realized that if I was going to give my best performance, I needed to let my body heal itself.
Over the past several months as I have been training for my summer races, I realized even more how important a rest day can be and how much it improves both my physical and mental energy. As my mileage has increased, I appreciate and look forward to my rest days more and more.
What do I do on my rest day?
I typically take the term ‘rest day’ to heart. I don’t exercise or really even move much during my rest days. I see it as a well deserved lazy day when I don’t feel a workout nagging in the back of my mind. However, I will admit, some of my rest days I am left feeling fidgety. Some days I want to exercise a bit, but I feel like I would be harming my body and not giving it proper rest. I am also questioning if I should be doing anything else on my rest days. More stretching, sleeping, icing, eating, etc. Truly, rest days couldn’t be as simple as resting, could they?
Given this dilemma, I was quite happy to see my Runner’s World arrive in the mail. One of the featured cover stories, ‘Rest Right: Make the most of your days off’ caught my attention. Like always, the fabulous people at Runner’s World read my mind.
Here is the kicker:
Exercise physiologist, Dr. Stephen McGregor says to make the most out of your recovery days doing absolutely nothing all day is not ideal.
I’m telling you guys, I almost threw this magazine in the garbage! I said to myself, ‘No one can take away my lazy rest days! Noooooooooo!’
Wait, I’m supposed to move on my rest days? AreyoujokingIhopeyouarejokingme.
Dr. McGregor says that having an active recovery (have you ever heard of a bigger oxymoron!?) can sooth aches and prepare you for stronger workouts better than an inactive recovery day.
Still not liking where this is going. But, I read on. ;)
The article went on to give some tips for increasing the benefit of recovery days.
1) Move It
Do very light activity like walking your dog or riding a bike for about 30 minutes. “Keep the intensity low…you shouldn’t be out of breath.”
2) Loosen Up
We don’t always have time to stretch properly after tough workouts, especially if they are long in duration. Use your rest days to focus on stretching out your tight spots. Research in the British Journal of Sports Medicine finds that yoga boosts running performance.
3) Eat Smart
Focus on eating the nutrients that you don’t get enough of during the week. If you normally spend 45 minutes on exercise, take some of this time to plan out proper nutrition.
3) Tune In Early
Our bodies and brains need sleep to heal from the mental and physical stress of training. Try to get 7-9 hours of undisturbed sleep.
Ok, so some light activity might not hurt me, in fact it could actually improve my recovery. I think I am going to be more open to the idea of doing some light walking on my rest days if I want to.
However, coming from my obsessive past with exercise, I know that information like this can be used in a negative way by some. I think it is important to stress that even though some light activity may improve recovery, it is still 100% FINE and DANDY to just sit on the couch during our rest days. We earned the rest and we can spend it however we please.
So of course, take this article with a grain of salt. The take home message here is if you want to do some light exercise and find yourself fidgety when sitting still all day then by all means do some. But, don’t allow yourself to fall into the ‘I should be doing more and more’ trap. If you really want to veg out on your rest day, then veg the heck out!
How do you approach rest days? Are you an all out rester or do you prefer to get in some activity? Have you found that activity helps your recovery?
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Goodluck and Happy Short Work Week!
See you later for a breakdown of what to do immediately after an intense workout from minutes 0-45. Have I been doing it all wrong? Stay tuned to find out!