Last updated on April 19th, 2023 at 09:35 AM
We know that rest is often a highly underestimated aspect of running but is essential for promoting performance, preventing injury and aiding recovery.
Whether you’re strictly a recreational runner or an elite performance athlete, all levels of runners can benefit from a well-planned rest program and at least one day off from the training schedule each week.
But what benefits can rest offer and what can runners do to ensure that they make the most out of each rest period?
- Encourages muscles to recover and strengthen
Running (as with any form of exercise) can create microscopic tears in muscle fibres.
To counteract this, the body rebuilds the muscles stronger. However, this only happens in rest periods and it’s therefore important to ensure your body has enough rest to allow muscles to repair and strengthen.
- Prevents injury
It might not be rocket science, but it is important to remember that rest is integral to injury prevention. Not resting adequately can lead to minor injuries becoming major ones. Overdoing it can lead to muscles and joints suffering from overuse, resulting in injury.
- Improves performance
Adequate rest allows the body to conserve and restore energy levels. Enhanced energy levels contribute to greater quality in each training session, helping to aid performance levels.
- Maintains focus
Although the mental health benefits of running are well documented and accepted, taking a planned day or two out can assist in mental clarity. The break from training helps your brain to relax and encourages focus and energy.
- Aid a good night’s sleep
When you run, your body doesn’t know why you are running. This can elevate levels of the stress hormone cortisol, making you feel irritable and restless. Ensuring that you rest will help to stabilise both heart rate and alertness and help you to sleep soundly.
- Allows the immune system to work effectively
When our bodies experience intense activity and training, our immune systems are working on overdrive to repair muscles and joints.
Without proper periods of rest, the immune system is unable to repair properly, and this can result in both inflammation and injury.
How to make the most out of your rest days
Give your nutrition some thought, ensure meals and snacks are planned and refuel your body with nourishing meals that will allow your body to perform efficiently.
Naturally active individuals can find the concept of inactivity terrifying! Take the opportunity to let the body relax and recuperate effectively by undertaking some relaxing activities.
Yoga can be a good option for those who still want to move as it can help refine useful relaxation techniques.