In my early running days, I never took a day off for the first 7 months; guess what, I was eventually forced off the tracks for close to three months as a result of over training and muscular strain. I have learned my lesson, but in a very hard way. I do not agree that you have to be forced off the track by one form of injury or another before you take time off the running to rest and recover. As a general rule, part of your weekly or monthly schedule must be dedicated to rest (Running off days). When I say rest, I mean it. Your rest days are not the days for light exercise or just a couple of reps, you need to completely stay off any form of training.
There is no reason to feel guilty about the time you spend to rest and you need to know that. When I started taking a day off every week, one of my running mates would mock me for resting, he thought it was a sign of weakness. After just three years, he has had to quit running completely because of multiple stress-related injuries.
If you are healthy and you are still in form, you may just take rest once a week or at least twice in a month. However, there are other factors that can mean that you need more time to rest, these includes age progression, sickness, injury, prior strains and increase in running distance or speed. Whatever category you fall, you need to plan rest into your schedule and do the needful.
7 SIGNS THAT YOU NEED A REST DAYS
Before you go further in this article, maybe it is time to take a good look at your body and check for some critical signs that you are critically in need of rest days already. In truth, your body will never adapt to your running routine, you must always allow it refresh and rest for a period of time before it gets back into full functionality. From my experience and what I have seen over the years, if you refuse to accept the reality of the need for your body to rest, you will see your endurance and speed begin to reduce over a period of time; and before you know it, you will be diagnosed with over training syndrome and you will have to start a painfully long period of recovery.
One of the first things to be bothered is your sleep patterns. When you can no longer stabilise your sleep patterns in terms of the length and the quality, you may be in need of that rest badly. Then you will notice a decline in your general energy levels and your mood will come crashing down. You will find yourself generally cranky and continuously frustrated with yourself, with everyone and with everything for no apparent reasons. From here, it may begin to get pretty messy.
You begin to reach your breaking point when your immunity starts to drop and you see yourself becoming tired every time. At this point, injuries become more serious than they should be and they take more time to heal if they at all. You begin to feel less motivated to run and you may give up completely on the running game if you are not careful. Lack of rest have retired many people before their time; trust me, you do not want to be the next.
I will give you some body indicators that will let you know easily that you need running off days and how much of it you need. Here you go:
Consistent loss of weight on a daily basis:
If you realise that you are losing weight noticeably and there are no other factors that can account for that, you may need a couple of rest days to recover and figure out what could be wrong. Most of the time, runners lose a lot of weight if they are not re hydrating very well enough. However, to get the best of re hydration, a little rest will complement and get you back in shape in no time at all. Also, sudden and unexplained weight loss comes hand in hand with reduced physical and mental performance, rest is urgent.
Blood pressure a bit higher:
This is very important if you notice that your resting heart rate is consistently higher than normal. You are expected to take a day or two as your running off days and observe your blood pressure. Most of the time, it is a sign that you are undergoing stress and you need to rest. Maybe you have been running too hard or too much in the past couple of weeks, you need some time to recover and that is where your running off days comes in.
This is both in terms of the quantity and the quality of your sleep. If you have not been sleeping well for a while now, you need to take a few days off running and see how that affects your sleep. If you are too tired, you may not be able to sleep well and this will affect the rate of your recovery and hormonal balance. A good sleep enhances that production and the release of certain hormones that boosts immunity and promotes health and fitness. Insomnia is not a good sign for any runner, you need to rest and recover.
If you are beginning to notice a change in the colour of your urine, you need to take a closer look at it. This is important if your pee is turning dark yellow; it is usually a sign of inadequate re hydration and it is normally accompanied by a reduction in the volume of your urine and in your general blood volume. Re hydration is not all about taking more fluids; it is more about giving the body the opportunity to absorb the much needed water. Re hydration is much more efficient when you take some time off to rest.
Low energy levels:
It is not a sin of weakness, if you are noticing that you are not able to muster a lot of positive energy, you may need some time off to recuperate and get yourself back. Emotional problems in athletics are never very far from fatigue. A good rest is one of the ways to stay emotionally and psychologically fit. Remember, a good race always starts in the mind, so does a bad one.
Getting very grumpy:
When you are stressed, your body produces cortisol and other stress hormones that makes you easily agitated and frustrated and hinders the production of calming and stimulating dopamine. When you are here, you need rest more than you can ever imagine, otherwise, you are left to the mercy of your unstable emotional outbursts.
When you feel sick:
I do not know if I need to write this, but just in case you are still in doubt about what to do when you are feeling sick, please rest. You are a runner, not superman; this means that you can fall sick and there is no reason for you to hide or pretend that you are not sick. The best way to shake off sickness is not to get on the track. I prefer to battle sickness and the feeling of sickness with some good rest. It is the best policy.
When injured or at the verge of an injury:
Injury is one of the best excuses to get a very good rest. Once you begin to feel a consistent strain on any part of your body, an injury is imminent and you can prevent that by taking a couple of days off to rest. If you are already injured, the best you can do for yourself is to rest and recover. Injuries are not necessary the end of your running days, but you need to manage them well to make the best of them.
Poor string of results:
If you notice that you are performing poorly both at competitions and at practice, you may need to take some time off to rest and figure out the consistent failures. Your form takes a turn for the worse when you allow fatigue to set in.
Long recovery period:
Before I was eventually forced off the tracks for my first few running off days, I noticed that I took longer to recover my breath after a run. I found myself still panting even after about 15 minutes after my run. This is not natural, it is one of the most potent signs of the need for rest.
WHAT TO DO ON REST AND RECOVER DAYS
As far as I am concerned, I prefer my rest days to be just that: rest. However, you need to avoid stiffness and lack of movement. You may need to design a new routine for your rest days especially if you are going to be observing running off days for a couple of days due to injury or protracted fatigue.
I will recommend some light workout that completely excludes any form of running or jogging. You can decide to walk, stretch and do some cardiovascular exercises, but you must not turn it into a training session on its own.
However you choose to spend your running off days, it is important to recognise the need for the body to rest and recover very well for maximum performance on and off the tracks. There is no crime in training very hard but you need to match that with equal intensity of rest and recovery. You will never be a machine, so stop behaving as such.
If you are too important to rest, you will soon becoming irrelevant on the tracks. You have no valid reason not to take your rest and to take it as at when due. Train hard, dream big and rest well.
What do you do to rest or relax on your running off days please leave me a comment below.