by Christi Beth Adams
As runners and athletes of all types, we’ve grown up with the “no pain, no gain” message that pushing ourselves to go hard and fast 24/7 is the hallmark of a dedicated athlete. Brownie points for putting in the work when the “other guy or gal” isn’t. But that’s old school mentality and if you haven’t already heard, rest and recovery is the name of the game when it comes to making physical gains.
Newsflash: You don’t gain fitness while running or working out; you gain fitness during recovery. We tend to place an emphasis on our hard workouts assuming they are the most important days of training, but a day off is what your body needs to make the magic happen. Micro tears in muscles repaired, inflammation quelled, hormones balanced, nutrients replenished – the list goes on. To build fitness, you have to give your body time to heal.
Taking time off from running is just as important as the miles you log. But all off time isn’t created equal. If you want to maximize your recovery so that you can come back feeling strong and reenergized, you need a deliberate approach. It’s no surprise that sleep needs to be a priority. If you want to maximize your body’s ability to rejuvenate, be sure you’re coupling those days off with an early bedtime. Obviously, being intentional about your sleep habits throughout your entire training cycle is imperative so don’t work your ass off and then skimp on the sleep.
Another way to step up your rest and recovery game is to pay attention to other stresses on your body. If you put in a marathon day at work or decided to hit the town because you had the extra time from not working out, you’re not respecting the rest day. If you’re increasing your time sitting at the computer or on social media, you’re simply trading the physical stress of that day’s workout for emotional stress. On your next scheduled rest day, take it next level and legit relax by minimizing other emotional and physical stresses within your control.
If you’re the type that can’t wrap your head around how doing nothing can make you fitter, take an active approach to your day off. Take the block of time you would normally run or workout and schedule a massage or check out a vinyasa yoga class that focuses on stretching. Wear compression socks to work and drink water like it’s going out of style. If you’re competitive, show the world how you can be the best at taking a rest day (I see you, @restdaybrags).
We ask so much from our bodies and if you expect yours to keep answering the call to go faster and longer, be sure you’re listening to what your body is telling you. Go hard when it’s time to go hard. Go easy when it’s time to go easy. And when something feels a little off or you’re exhausted or you’re simply preparing yourself to add workload the following week, take the rest day. And when you do, brag about it.