Updated: Nov 4, 2022
Do you need a rest day?
We all know that person who is on a 3-month, 6-month, 3-year, ect. running streak, while other runners can feel their bodies breaking down if they do not take one to two days off a week from running. So the question is, do you need a rest day?
I am not sure who made up the idea that 48 hours is this magical time period where your muscles and cellular systems magically recover from a run. Any time you hear someone say, “All runners benefit from...”, I encourage you to take those statements with a grain of salt unless they are backed up by a ton of research. No two runners are the same. We respond to training differently, our bodies are different, and our lives in general (which have an huge influence on recovery) are also different. With that said, not ALL runners need a day off and not ALL runners would benefit from being streakers.
Let’s say a runner’s recovery day consists of sleeping 4 hours the night before, not eating well throughout the day, and experiencing chronic stress due to work and family stressors. Then there is runner 2 who meditates daily, sleeps 8+ hours an night, eats nutrient-rich food throughout the day, and looks forward to going to work every morning. These two individuals are going to respond to a “recovery day” very differently. Runner 2 is going to recover much more effectively than runner 1, and will not require as much time between runs for recovery. Most of us spend a very small percentage of our time running, so what we do during the other 22-23.5 hours a day is really important to consider!
Let’s also consider running volume. If a runner trains 55+ miles a week, is a 3 mile “easy run” going to impact the runner’s performance the next day during a long run or speed work training? How would this compare to a novice runner who runs 15-20 miles a week? Another aspect to consider is if the runner is actually doing the “easy run” at a moderate pace, or is the runner going all out everyday, pushing him/herself to the max? If you are the second runner, then we need to talk about your training
We are all different. I encourage you to listen to your body, find what’s best for your recovery and running performance. There is no need to try to mimic the goals and training of your neighbor down the street if your body does not handle that type of training well. Do what is best for YOUR body so your can reach YOUR running goals.