One trait that distinguishes serious runners is their dedication to the sport, but that dedication may also lead to a harmful habit of pushing too hard and avoiding needed rest days. It’s understandable, and even predictable that our competitive nature frequently drives us to push ourselves beyond what is wise or perhaps even safe. While it is commendable to make fitness and exercise a daily habit, pushing too hard without taking breaks can produce negative results.
Unlike weight training where you can work different muscle groups on different days, distance running works the same muscles and joints repeatedly. A serious running regimen requires that we allow our bodies and our minds time to recover or suffer the consequences in injuries or burn out. This advice is especially relevant following periods of peak performance, such as competitive race days. Bursts of such high intensity should be followed by recovery periods. This may be a period of complete rest, or just day or two where you reduce the intensity of your runs and workouts. These restful periods also lead to improved performance. Allowing the appropriate time for your body to recover and heal stimulates positive physiological changes, including greater resilience and stronger muscles.
While rest periods are essential for everyone, individual physiology and psychology are unique. Some runners can physically handle daily training without breaks and find that running every day provides a needed respite from the stress and strain of modern life. Others find it difficult to resume training after a day off. Regardless of your individual restful requirements, it is important to set aside time for recovery. To repeat: that may be a full rest day, or a day of relaxed workouts and low exertion.
It is good to remember that your exercise needs are unique, and there is no best path on the road to achieving your personal fitness goals. A balanced and effective training regimen demands that high exertion be followed by rest and recovery. Following this simple rule will pay dividends in improved performance with fewer injuries and heightened motivation.