It is difficult to get runners out of the running track. Running becomes so important that the day one is not able to do running, one feels missing an essential part of life. But taking a rest day and that too in a regular planned way is extremely essential for performance and care. Without rest, beyond a point, the body refuses to progress and recover. When we rest we overcome stress and daily trauma our muscles and bones go through. This breakdown of tissues needs a rest time to recover and get ready for another bout.
If we do not consider a scheduled rest, our body doesn’t get a chance to recuperate from the stress caused by exercise and running. When we do a workout, our muscles and tissues break down, deplete our glycogen stores and utilize micro minerals to perform. These are micro damages which the body generally repairs using energy and resources of the body. However, if we have no rest day, these resources are not available to repair. Rest days allow the energy diversion to repair and recoup from stress and trauma. A general outcome of a rest day is a stronger self, ready to undergo training yet again.
Rest also helps in injury prevention. Overtraining is always dangerous at all levels. Stress is cumulative in nature. As we work out daily, stress and trauma keep accumulating. Although in our daily lives, sleep does bring down stress levels, it is never enough for a complete repair. You can take an example of a bucket that has a small hole underneath. However, the filling rate (stress due to exercise) is more than the leakage rate (sleep at night). Over a period of time that bucket will start to overflow. Not only that, as the bucket has more water, pressure on the hole will increase trying to increase the leakage rate (akin to injury). If we switch off the tap for one day, the bucket will empty itself and will be ready for another filling session.
Rest Day vs Active Recovery Day
Many confuse rest days with an active recovery day. Rest day is giving rest to your muscles at the molecular or cellular level. It is like sleeping all day long. Active recovery day on the other hand is a day when one can lower the intensity of the workout but do include cross-training in the active recovery day schedule. On an active recovery day, we allow our body to move in a different direction and feel different than the normal training days. Intensity is kept as low as 30 to 40%. These levels are enough to warm up the body and allow muscles, tendons, and ligaments to loosen up a bit. It is like taking a short nap rather than sleeping all day.
Every individual is different and hence is the difference between rest and active recovery. Hence never go by any program which fits all, as it can never fit all. Make your own recovery path.
Rest day activity list
A very well-spent rest day can be resting on your bed or couch for 24 hours. The best way to plan is not to put any stress on the muscles in which you are resting. It is completely all right if no activity is done on the rest day. There are although a few things which can be done.
- Mindful Meditation for runners
- Foam roller program
- General static stretching
- Massage, one of the best techniques to recoup
- Steam or Sauna bath
- Ice bath or hot tub bath
Article by: Capt Jitender Harjai Fitness Expert H2F Care