What exactly should you do on your rest days?


Running can be addicting. Whether you use it to socialize, spend too many hours on the computer, or compete, it’s hard to say no to a run. However, regular breaks are crucial in order to maintain your performance as an athlete.

Without rest breaks, your body has no chance of recovering from the stress of exercise – and you cannot make adjustments without keeping this time away from exercise. “If you physically challenge your muscles through exercise, they break down tissue and use glycogen stores (energy),” explains Beret Loncar, massage and yoga therapist, running trainer and owner of Body mechanics in New York. NY.

After your workout, this micro-damage to the cells in your muscles needs to be repaired and rebuilt so that it can be even stronger for your next workout, she adds – and this is best done at a time when you are not overloading your body any further.

What’s more, rest days can prevent injuries by keeping overtraining at bay. “There is a certain amount of stress that your body can handle – not just exercising or being on your feet, but the overall cumulative stress of life events. If your body is no longer able to cope with this overall burden, your health suffers, ”says Loncar. “It’s easiest to imagine, a cup that you fill with water. Every time you do something that requires work, add a little water to the cup. The cup does not have an infinite capacity, so the cup will overflow at a certain point. If that happens, it will endanger your health and leave you prone to injury. “

So that your body works optimally and you don’t overdo it, you should plan some time out in every running program – and how you can maximize this time out to get the most out of your training.

Is a rest day different from an active day of rest?

A rest day is a day that “involves no movement at all,” says Tim Montgomery, trainer and owner of NUMA Speed ​​Elite in Gainesville, Florida. “I tell my clients that it is useful to think of these days as a good night’s sleep.” research of the International magazine for sports medicine.)

It’s about giving your muscles a break at the molecular and cellular levels, says Megan Sloan, an RRCA-certified treadmill and physical therapist at Smith Physical Therapy and Running Academy in Crystal Lake, IL. “Your body needs a full night’s sleep every night to function properly in everyday life. Why shouldn’t this theory also apply to a runner and their walking legs? ”She says. “The time away from our running shoes enables the muscles to repair themselves and in return gives us what we need: more kilometers on fresh legs.”

An active day of rest, on the other hand, is “more like a short nap than a good night’s sleep,” says Montgomery. “It involves lower-intensity activities to bring the blood to your muscles so they can relax.”

Active recovery can include any type of cross-training – such as walking, hiking, biking, swimming, and weight training – that allows your body to move in other ways, which can benefit your running and prevent injuries without putting more strain on your muscles Loncar added. Think of walking versus running: it’s a similar pattern of movement, but you use your muscles differently, strain your ligaments and tendons differently, and put much less strain on your body.

The key to these active recovery workouts is keeping the intensity at 30 to 60 percent of your maximum heart rate, according to a 2019 review by doing Journal for strength and conditioning research. “These lower-intensity activities are enough to warm up, loosen up, and shake the body, but don’t make great demands on your system to recover,” explains Loncar.

Because every runner is different, the number of rest and active rest days a runner needs will vary. “For a newer runner, however, it’s best to aim for a full day of rest per week while also planning on one or two days of active rest,” Sloan says.

The more experienced you get, the more it is about listening to your body and figuring out what you need to do to maximize your performance. When you are feeling good, you may need less recovery time. “However, if you notice signs of overtraining, such as For example, restlessness, poor sleep, fatigue, increased heart rate and poor recovery, you should increase your rest time and reduce exercise intensity or stress, ”says Loncar.

What to do on full rest days

The good news: a day off can means to melt in your couch for 24 hours. The whole point is not to physically strain your body and if that works best for you then you will definitely become one with these pillows.

“Culturally, some of us have trouble doing nothing, but it’s perfectly fine and healthy not to do anything on a rest day,” says Loncar. “If you are having trouble stepping down from a Type A mindset, you can try engaging mindfulness or meditation practices to help you relax more quickly.”

But a smarter way to spend your day off is to purposely do recreational work. “A rest day can include recovery tools like a foam roller, lacrosse ball, stretch belt, massage gun, or any other tool that helps your muscles,” Sloan says.

According to a 2014 study, foam rollers alleviated pain for the next two days after intense exercise to learn in Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercisewhile massage guns are used less immediately after exercise delayed onset of sore muscles (DOMS) in a 2019 to learn published in Journal of International Medical Research.

You can also splurge a bit: “On my days of complete recovery, I advocate taking a massage, an ice bath or a hot tub. Those were always my favorite ways to relax! ”Says Montgomery. According to a 2018, massage is one of the best recovery techniques for reducing DOMS and perceived fatigue Meta-analysis published in the journal Limits in Physiology. It was found that cold water immersion DOMS in a. reduced scientific review conducted in 2012 by the Cochrane Library while a hot bath promotes blood flow to tired muscles and joints, a 2016 to learn by doing Journal of Physiology found.

The biggest thing: choose something, not because you think it’s good for you, but because it makes you feel good. Much of the rest and relaxation is of a mental nature. So when you’re doing something you enjoy – whether it’s getting a massage or relaxing Squid game on Netflix – this is how you feel best.

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