So, you finally reached a rest day for your week and you’re wondering, what should I actually be doing on rest day? Well, I’m Jesse Funk and on today’s episode of Runner’s High, I’m gonna answer that exact question, no matter what level runner you actually are.
The big question here is, should I be doing anything on my rest day? You know, you’re asking, what should I be doing? But really, it’s, should I be doing anything on my rest day. And this really depends on what kind of phase you’re in training and your fitness level.
So, I’m gonna give you three recommendations based on kind of where I’ve been over the years from beginning runner to collegiate competitive runner to now more still competitive, but a little bit more maintenance as I get older and I can’t do as many days so the first part is here. If you’re a new runner to the sport and you’re just building up mileage, what should you be doing on your rest days?
Well, you really shouldn’t be doing much of anything on your rest days. It’s a day off, it’s a day of rest. We kind of have this compulsion where it’s like more is better. But that’s not actually the case. Rest days, the whole intention is that it allows you to rest and recover for your muscles to be ready to go for the next day of work. So, if you’re new to the sport, in your first few years, your rest day really should be a day off.
If you have to do something, then stretch, roll your legs out on a massage stick, get a massage, if you can, those kinds of things. And those will actually apply to anybody on any rest day, but particularly for you if you’re new to the sport.
Now, if you’ve been at it a little bit more, or you’re a little bit older like I’m in my early 30s now, and I can’t go seven days a week like I used to; rest days, for me can be one of two things. More likely just like the early person who’s just starting out, do nothing on your rest days. It’s kind of the annoying answer, right? Rest on your rest days, duh, right? But again, it’s that compulsion where we’re like, we have to do something, we have to be active and do something.
If you’ve been at this a while, you can take a rest day as a cross-training day if you have to do something. And that’s a matter of no running, but you can get in the pool, you can get on the bike, do something that is not going to have a lot of impact on your joints like running does, but it’s still going to get your blood flowing, and you’re not going to be doing it hard. It’s going to be a matter of active recovery.
And that is just so we get our blood pumping, we get it through our muscles, and we get all the nutrients in bad stuff out and aid in that faster recovery. This doesn’t really apply if you’ve only been running for a few years, or you’re still in kind of new or low mileage because you’re typically going to do more damage than you’re going to do good if you still need to build up your fitness. But if you’re in this more competitive phase, you’re older, and you don’t do seven days a week, you don’t have that fitness for that, then either do nothing or do a cross-training active recovery phase.
Now, the third condition, this last one, this is really for you if you are in the peak of training. If you’re in peak fitness, typically this is going to be early to late 20s type people, sometime into 30s. But often, that’s the subgroup. And that is if you’re working out six, seven days a week, and you have a rest day, that’s going to be active recovery. So, in college, my active recovery day was a 12-mile run.
This was very easy. We did not take it out hard, but it actually helped me build endurance by allowing me to get some more miles in, some more endurance base. And then also like that cross-training, active recovery, I was able to get blood flow through those muscles and kind of get them ready to go for the next day at work.
Those other options for those lower levels, I’ll call them lower levels. I don’t mean to be demeaning in that are also options for you even if you’re in you’re really competitive stage. Doing that seven days a week is going to be not sustainable for the super, super long term. So, you need to talk to your coach, preferably about where you are in your stage of training, and figure out okay, does seven days make sense?
Do I need to take a cross-training day? Or what other options are available to me? Should I take a day entirely off? You do need to be careful about overtraining because that can lead to injury and then you take all kinds of time off.
So, those are your three basic options for what to do on your rest day. Do nothing, nice mental recovery, recovery for your muscles, do a cross-training day, or active recovery running. All three, obviously depending on where you are as an athlete. So, I’ll see you next time on the next episode Runner’s High.