Saturday morning I woke up with some nice tight legs. It was that kind of burn that makes you cringe as you get out of bed but also gives you a smile because you know you worked them pretty hard.
Part of me (the sick running nerd) wanted to suck it up and go for a run but it had been a week since my last day off and I knew that my mind and body needed it. Sometimes we runners get so stuck in our daily routines, or perhaps running obsession, we forget that we need a break both mentally and physically. There are two ways to do this by either taking a full rest day or an active rest day.
Generally I recommend an active rest day. This means that you aren’t going to kick your feet up and lay around on the couch all day watching reruns of Diners, Drive-Ins, and Dives. Instead you might enjoy a nice morning of sleeping in followed by a walk, bike, swim or any other easy and low impact activity. Giving your body some sort of stimulation is a good thing and can actually aid in flushing all of that lactic acid out of your legs after a long week of running. An active rest day can help your body to recover and be refreshed for the next week ahead.
Taking this time off will help your body to replenish its glycogen stores which is essential if you are training for a distance race. It will also allow your body to recover which is essential for avoiding injury. Your mind also needs this time to take a break, necessary to avoid falling into a running funk. Going without a break can leave you mentally exhausted, leaving you dreading every single run whether it is long or short. Taking a break isn’t going to hurt you, if anything you will return refreshed.
Sometimes even an active rest day is too much. When I am training for a race I plan on Sunday as my rest and recovery day. If it is nice out I love to wander around and check out farmers markets or just take nice long strolls without any plan in mind. However, I continued doing this during my marathon training and I found that come Monday my legs still just felt really heavy and my body in general felt really exhausted.
For the remainder of my training I avoided much of any activity on my rest days. I slept in and just lounged around. It wasn’t easy for me to do at first but once I started to see a difference in the way I felt at the beginning on my next training week I was convinced.
It really is important to listen to your body and find what works for you. Many runners enjoy doing a light jog the day after their long runs and if that works for you that is okay! Others enjoy changing it up and taking a yoga class. This is also a great option and can really help to loosen up those tight muscles. As with anything else in running it is important to experiment and see what works best for you. Just make sure you take a rest day. No cheating!
On my Saturday rest day I was looking forward to hosting dinner later in the day. I had gone the day before and bought everything I needed to make my slow cooker Italian beef. But my husband happened to ask me that afternoon if I remembered the bread for the sandwiches. I am so glad he asked me. We rarely keep bread in our house so it was a funny mistake to be made. We had to take a picture of my arms full of bread because it was so atypical of a shopping trip for us.
Dinner was a hit but we really knocked everyone’s socks off with dessert. Behold the chocolate fountain!
It was so fun to hang out with friends and family. I was nice and rested on Sunday for a slow 7 mile run with my husband. Then I hung out at the curling club with my new friend Flat Stanley (A special thanks to our friend Aubrey for allowing us the pleasure of being his tour guide for a few weeks). Now that is a weekend!