Do I really need rest days? (Read 234 times)


    I recently got back into running after a several year hiatus, including a bout of moderate to severe depression coupled with problematic alcohol use. I thought I was going to have to do C25K again, but that turned out not to be the case. (Maybe because I was never really on the couch that much - I'm kind of a compulsive walker except when the depression gets REALLY bad, so I get at least 10k steps pretty much every day, and my natural gait is pretty brisk. I just never counted walking as "exercise".) I am now at a point where my normal run is 30 continuous minutes, every other day, at a slow, conversational pace. My legs feel fine, both during the run and after. My lungs feel great. I know my weak, slightly overweight ass probably shouldn't be running every day yet, especially since my knees and ankles have a history of wobbliness, but rest days just feel like a waste of time, and I have skipped them several times.


    I'm female, 33 years old, I've gotten injured before from doing too much too soon. I'm heavier now than I was then, but maybe a little smarter. My first choice of exercise is running (duh), but if I can't do that every day, is there any reason I can't do another form of aerobic exercise on off days? I'm thinking rowing, or maybe a boxing bag class, or, like, walking super fast up a really long, steep hill? Maybe I'm overly cautious, but I'm terrified of getting injured again. Running is doing wonders for my mental health in so many ways.


    (I have started doing strength training on off days, partly to prevent the kind of injuries I have ended up with before. The problem is that I effing hate strength training. Don't get me wrong, it's obviously good for me and I feel really accomplished afterwards, but it just HURTS. SO. MUCH. and I have no natural aptitude for it whatsoever and it makes me furious and I just want to smack all the muscular explosive flexible non-sweaty people across the face with my puny resistance band... SOO I've been bribing myself with a run just to get to the gym, which defeats at least some of the purpose.)


    How do I get my cardio fix? Please halp.

      I don't think rest days (that is, days off) are essential. You do have to meter your effort, of course, e.g., alternating easy days with more significant efforts.


        Plenty of people run everyday with a rest day every few weeks, so it can certainly be done in a general sense.


        Whether it’s right for you depends on you.  If you can read the signs of needing a rest day or super easy day and then take the rest day then good.


        I wouldn’t jump straight to 7 days/week. Maybe add a day per week every couple of weeks until you get there.  At first keep run less on each day to keep your weekly mileage constant or slightly increasing.


        And to anticipate your next question, it’s ok to run twice a day.

        Elite Jogger

          If you are running everything at a slow conversational pace then I don’t see any reason why you’d need a rest day. Just play it by ear really.

          5k - 17:53 (4/19)   10k - 37:53 (11/18)   Half - 1:23:18 (4/19)   Full - 2:50:43 (4/19)

          runnin gal

            I say listen to your wiser self and take at least a day off running each wk.  Definitely do some type of cross training if you want, I like to do rowing, yoga, etc and have to say my overall strength and balance have improved which translates to better shape for running and lower risk of injuries.  As far as "walking super fast up a really long, steep hill" that's exactly how I got a high hamstring injury which took close to a year to feel back to normal. Don't go there.  Sometimes less is more!


              How about running  2 days on 1 day off for a month and see how it goes? It is wise to mix in strength training like you are currently doing and it does not need to hurt. Adjust your plan if you feel you are hurting. Some mild soreness the day or two after a work out is normal but if feel crazy sore, well you are likely doing more than you need to do to benefit. Also, feel free to mix up your jogs a bit down the road when you feel you are ready like......run last 5-10 min faster or mix in some 30 sec pick me ups/striders during your run. This helps spark metabolism as well and breaks up monotony.

              H-WAVE - Helping Athletes Reduce Pain and Recover Faster


              One day at a time

                I'm older, 56, and my sports doctor told me he would like to run five days a week, max.  He said that some people CAN run every day safely, but most of his older patients need rest days.  This guy has helped me a lot, so I am going to take his advice now that my tendonitis is better and I can start running again.


                Will Run for Donuts!

                  I recently heard something interesting from another runner (who happened to be both much younger and much faster (1:24 half fast), which is probably relevant to his opinion).  He felt that since his resting heart rate was so low due to his overall fitness, it helped him on his "rest" days to do a short, easy recovery run just to slightly elevate his heart rate and increase blood flow into/out of his muscles.  He felt that was a more effective recovery method for him rather than avoiding any activity on a rest day.  Certainly an interesting perspective.


                  One day at a time

                    My plan is to run five days a week and do another activity two days a week.  I joined the Y so I will have options like swimming and spinning.


                    Mother of Cats

                      I generally take two days each week in the pool; with the other 5 being running days - my rule of thumb is never to run more than 3 days in a row before taking a day in the pool.


                      I think it keeps me healthy, not because I can't handle more than 3 days of running on land, but because I'm very bad about changing my schedule to jump in the pool for a day when something hurts.  Having regularly scheduled pool days ensures that I end up taking a pool day when I need it.

                      Everyone's gotta running blog; I'm the only one with a POOL-RUNNING blog.


                      And...if you want a running Instagram where all the pictures are of cats, I've got you covered.

                        Here is my experience: First of all I have mapped courses on the roads in my area with measured mileages from one mile to over 20 miles. When starting training after a hiatus I have done the courses by running one of them each and every day in order from the smallest to up to 6 miles. I have a lot of courses less than 6 miles, so the increase each day may just be like a fifth of a mile and it will take over three weeks of running each day to get to the six mile run. Because the increase is so gradual and I am running at a comfortable speed all the time I don't really feel stressed from having no rest days. Once my runs get beyond six miles it is prudent to have a recovery day or days each week, at least for me. Usually I take a rest day after my long run for the week. Note that I am in my upper 60s in age. Since you are half my age and running for 30 minutes at a comfortable pace,  I don't see any problem with doing a run each day. In fact, I think it will really help in many ways! If you really like it why worry about alternative exercises? That is unless you enjoy them too. As a runner I find I like walks, a nice hike in the wood is good, and I like to ride my bike. I sometimes use the treadmill at a fitness center but any strength training I like to do in the privacy of my home. Find what exercises you like and if you want to run 3 or 4 miles each day go for it! Just know to back off if you do start to feel the discomfort of potential injury.

                        "My dear, here we must run as fast as we can, just to stay in place. And if you wish to go anywhere you must run twice as fast as that.” 

                        Seattle prattle

                          Whether or not you need rest days depends on why you are running and how you define rest days.

                          If you run because you enjoy it and to get fit, then no, you don't need to take rest days. If you run to improve your running speed and endurance and be more competitive, then rest day or two would probably benefit you.

                          As for definition, rest days for some of us means a day to cross-train, and for others it means a total day off from any cardio. Which one would benefit you the most would depend on your goal (see above) and the rest of your training program, including total weekly mileage, intensity of your quality workouts, and what phase you are in your program (i.e.: base building or peaking or tapering, to name a few).

                          In short, if you just want to stay in shape and enjoy working out, do what you like and stay engaged. If you are trying to maximize your athletic abilities, you will need to fit your rest days into a total training program, including how many, when, and what they should consist of.

                             The problem is that I effing hate strength training. Don't get me wrong, it's obviously good for me and I feel really accomplished afterwards, but it just HURTS. SO. MUCH. and I have no natural aptitude for it whatsoever and it makes me furious and I just want to smack all the muscular explosive flexible non-sweaty people across the face with my puny resistance band... 


                            Nothing to add that hasn't been said, but I wanted to note that the above made me chuckle. Thanks.


                            I'm out of ideas

                              You need recovery days.  That's not the same as rest days, though rest days are recovery days.  There's a website devoted to streakers, the kind who run every day.   The longest streak is over 40 years running at least one mile a day.  So do you really need rest days?  Probably not, but you do need recovery days when you run very short and easy.  As others have also mentioned, if you need one, take it.


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                                   03/07/20 - Delano Park 12-Hour

                                   05/16/20 - 3DATF 50K

                                   07/11/20 - Ethan Allen 6-Hour

                              T Hound

                              Slower but happier

                                Replace the term “rest day” with active recovery.   Makes it easier to swallow and more of what u are looking for.  Tearing down and building back up is part of progressing with training.  Find something you enjoy or u won’t stick with it.


                                But intense crosstraining on non running days is not active recovery.  I don’t enjoy strength training so I run or walk hills (not recovery just an aside).   My understanding is strength training would be most effective on a harder day after running, but I was never able to do that. No six pack here, move along nothing to see. Personally, I take a day per week off usually but that’s just what has worked for me.  I found if I don’t mentally I resent running.  My brain is just as weak as my body I guess.


                                WC.  I read that “website for streakers” as a community of people running everyday for years in their birthday suit...


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