Along with a wholesome diet and a sufficient amount of sleep, adequate rest and recovery is a crucial aspect of any fitness regimen.
Research has shown that a day off every seven to 14 days restores glycogen levels, reduces fatigue, and increases overall strength. If you don’t allow your body to properly recover from intense exercise, it may adapt in short-term, but over-exercising won’t do you any favors in the long-term. Most sports injuries come from overuse, which can be prevented with light cross-training, an easy recovery run, or, most importantly, complete rest. What are a couple of days off every now and then compared to being sidelined for weeks from iliotibial band (ITB) syndrome?
I’m 25 years old. Since turning 21, I’ve run a total of three full marathons, seven half-marathons and dozens of shorter races in between. I have also never sustained any serious injuries (knock on wood) and truly believe that this is because I’ve always made sure to take two complete rest days per week. And I look forward to them—there’s something to be said for sleeping in on a weekday. After each marathon, I have taken a full week off of exercise of any kind. I’ve pushed my body to the limit and it needs to recoup, you know?
I finally broke four hours in my third marathon this past January. As much as I would like to beat my personal best likerightnow, I’m perpetually apprehensive about burning out and I’m confident that waiting a full year to tackle the 26.2 mile distance again is the right decision for me. I’ll be running half-marathon No. 8 in Nashville this weekend as a workout with a New York runner friend who is about to run her second marathon in a couple of weeks. After this race, I’m looking forward to taking the summer off from long distances. I’ll still be logging a decent amount of mileage every week but likely won’t go beyond 10K until fall hits. I live in Texas and am so relieved that this year, I finally will not be marathon training in 100 degree temps!
Don’t worry that a couple of days are going to undo your peak speed and fitness levels. With proper recovery techniques, your body will adapt to the hard work you’ve put in. It’ll improve with time and thank you in the long run (pun intended).