One would think a “rest day” would be fairly self-explanatory, but it is more than just lying on the couch. Some runners will often use “rest days” to complete some Herculean task like building a shed, painting the house, or hiking ten miles. Both of these typical approaches to non-running days, the couch potato and the worker bee, can be optimized by following the below advice.
If You Typically Run Six-Seven Days Per Week
Unless you are bent on maintaining a “running streak” for years on end, it is wise to take at least one rest day each month.
A properly accomplished day of “recovery training” can help prevent injury, enhance adaptation to training, and keep you mentally sharp.
Place your rest day for the month or week close to your hardest workout or race for that period to capitalize on those gains; as noted in the last section, it is best to run easy for one day before taking complete rest so that your muscles recover maximally.
A sample week is below for a typical daily runner training for a race. On the rest day, try to get extra sleep, plenty of good food and fluids, and relax your body and mind as much as possible. Taking a yoga class, getting a massage, or just stretching at home during your normal training time are all great ideas.
Mon- Easy 60min Run
Tues- Track Workout: Warm-Up, 12x 400m @ 5K Pace, Warm-Down
Wed- Easy 40min Run
Thurs- Easy-Moderate 60min Run
Fri- Long Tempo Run- Long Warm-Up, 10K Tempo @ 90-95% of Race Effort, Long Warm-Down
Sat- Easy 45min (flushing the legs, raising blood Ph after yesterday)
Sun- Rest (resting with maximum benefit)
If You Typically Run 4-5 Days Per Week
If you are used to resting a few days each week, then doing some cross training on these rest days may help speed recovery and boost fitness.
I still recommend having one day of total rest each week or couple of weeks to keep you fresh and healthy. The below sample week will show how you may convert some of your non-running days into “recovery training” days!
Mon- Easy 45min Run
Tues- Track Workout: WU, 6x 800m @ 5K Pace, WD
Wed- 30min XT on Bike; Weights (XT to recover and boost fitness)
Thurs- Easy 45min Run
Fri- Mod 60min Run + Strides
Sat- Rest; Stretching and Core (maximum recovery from the week)
Sun- 90min Long Run