Runners should always have one passive recovery day per week in their training plan. Full recovery is very important to support our muscles, bones and even our whole metabolism. To include one passive recovery day weekly is essential to avoid injuries and overtraining.
For runners with running plans that include less than 6 running days, to include some active recovery plans on the no-run days will have many health and fitness benefits and boost your training. And to add some active recovery plans is a great opportunity to enjoy nature, and physical activity different from our regular routine and training plan. But if we feel tired, exhausted and intense muscle soreness, a passive recovery day with minimal activity is the best recommendation.
Active recovery means we’re giving our muscles some rest, but we are still moving and exercising to maintain our fitness level and feel good. Through active recovery, we support our body to recover and heal. A rest day workout gives us the active recovery and helps our body to bounce back after intense or long runs.
Rest Days are Critical to Improve our Training.
We have to give our body a chance to recover from intense training. Rest days will let our muscles recover and grow back stronger. Runners need to avoid overtraining, and the best way to do that is through proper rest and recovery.
We feel soreness in our muscles after a workout for a reason, it’s our body’s way of telling us to take a break. Pushing through those aches and pains may work in the short term. If we keep doing it we’ll open ourself up to injuries and will eventually stop seeing progress in our training.
Rest days are an important part of building fitness. Our body needs time to recover and is as important as our activities. However, the exact amount of time needed to recover will very much depend on the intensity of the training we are doing. At least one day of resting should be considered after a relatively intense run.
But that doesn’t mean we need to sit around doing nothing. We can continue to contribute to our running ability in other ways, especially through increasing the strength and flexibility of our core muscle groups.
How to Exercise on Rest Days
To perform some different types of workouts on active rest days can help improve and support our running form and strength. Developing deep abdominal core muscles as well as other commonly neglected muscles in runners such as the glutes and inner thigh muscles, building these muscles helps to increase our core control, improves posture, and contributes towards efficient running form.
Our core muscles act as a stabilizer for our torso, helping to keep us steady and upright. Our body is able to transfer the forces from running or other activities more efficiently if all these muscles are working well together.
Weaknesses in these areas encourage our body to compensate with other muscle groups, putting pressure on other areas of the body and increasing risk of injury. And it is not only strengthening that is important for runners, stretching and maintaining flexibility is also vital to keep our movement fluid and again reducing the risk of injury.
Most runners, prefer the mode of exercise like strapping on the running shoes and hitting the pavement or treadmill. But we need breaks from running during the week to prevent physiological breakdown and mental burnout.
Great Rest Day Workouts
· Weight Training- Weight lifting helps to build muscle mass, and burn calories while using different muscle groups than the ones we usually use while running.
· Core Workouts- Core and bodyweight workouts help build, strengthen and balance all our essential muscles.
· Easy Walk- Going for an easy walk is an excellent way to loosen up tight, achy muscles. Leave your GPS watch at home, and don’t worry about pace. Give yourself permission to go easy. Even after Ultra Races, our body progresses much smoother and faster if we go out and walk an easy distance the day after the race.
· Yoga- Building yoga into your weekly workout schedule gives your body an opportunity to get the rewards of stretching, deep breathing, and meditation.
· Cycling- Cycling provides a good light exercise for runners on their rest day because the motion is similar to running with little to no impact on the joints. The goal of cycling should be to ride comfortably in the low intensity on the rest days.
· Swimming- Swimming is a great active recovery low-impact workout. It allows our body to be weightless, relaxes our joints and stretches our body. Also, the water pressure helps improve the circulation in the muscles, blood vessels and heart.
· Hiking- Hiking on the rest day for runners also allows muscles to be active differently than when they are running. The muscle activation in the lower legs changes when walking on an incline, so runners are able to develop new motor skills that can transfer from running to other activities. I recommend not more than 45 minutes to an hour of hiking on rest days.
There are so many different ways to exercise on rest days. These ideas give you direction on what kinds of exercises you can choose for your rest day workouts that won’t have any downstream impacts on your training.
Here’s the important thing to remember: We should find and focus on an activity that will help us recovery, not hurt our body.
Rest Days Plan
The recommendation for rest days, runners should take 2-3 rest days each week. Those rest days can include the active rest days workouts or exercises, as long as the focus remains recovery from the physical stress of running.
For peak performance, runners should plan to take one day each week of total passive rest. Complete rest allows muscles to repair the micro-tears that occur during running. A day of complete rest each week helps reduce the risk of injuries, and helps to avoid the mental burnout that can result from overtraining.
Running every day while training for a race is definitely possible. But some of the runs on that plan will be slow recovery runs. Slow runs are meant to primarily shake out the legs after hard runs the day before.
Rest Day Workouts to Get to the Next Level
Rest day workouts are a great addition to our training plan. While it may seem that the logical approach to recovery would include a lot of laying down, that type of passive recovery doesn’t move us forward. Active recovery, using exercise on rest days to boost our recovery improves our training to the next level.
Perform Good Active Recovery Day Workouts, Feel Better and Stronger, Improve your Running Pace and Form!