Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Wise Words on Days Off

When in doubt, take a day off.

It’s such a simple statement. Logical. Easy to follow. But somehow…not.

For those of you who have no idea what I’m talking about, let me explain. Running every single day is not good for you. After every workout, you get tired (obviously). If you continue to work out and run and work out and run, your muscles do not get the recovery they need to build up stronger. So essentially, by overtraining (aka, not giving your muscles a break), you are actually breaking yourself down, rather than making yourself faster.

That is how my dad explained it to me back in the day, and how I will continue to understand the recovery process. I take a well-deserved day off every week. (Or at least every two weeks.)

And the key is to take a day off before you really need it.

Let me illustrate:

Day 1: You go out for a run, and you’re tired. So you think, hmm….bad day. Oh well.

Day 2: You go out for a run, and you’re tired again. Crap. Another bad day. Maybe it’s time for a day off.

Day 3: Day off.

What a waste. Two crappy runs + a day off. When what you could have done is take Day 1 off, and then get 2 quality days afterwards!

And a planned day off is possibly one of the best things ever. I wake up in the morning thinking not just, I’m not going to run today, but, I’m not supposed to run today. It takes away all guilt. And then the day after a day off I feel rejuvenated and excited to run. Days off help remind me why I love doing this crazy sport. After a whole day without a run, I actually miss running, and I get excited about getting out there again.

So I’m going to take a moment and add days off to my list of favorite things (along with pumpkin desserts and spandex). Check.

That being said, one of the worst things EVER is an unplanned day off. (Sidenote: I’m a planner, I like to plan – so when something is not in my plans, it totally throws off my life.)

An unplanned day off occurs when something is wrong. Like something hurts. And I know, from too many experiences, that running through the pain is probably the worst idea ever. Because 3 months into pooling/biking/not running all you think is WHY THE HELL DIDN’T I TAKE A COUPLE DAYS OFF AND SOLVE THIS PROBLEM BEFORE IT STARTED??? (Sorry for the all caps – some things I just feel really strongly about.)

Conclusion: take a day off when things hurt. So where is the problem? Some things are easier said than done. Running through pain, to a certain extent, is what distance runners do. But it’s important to distinguish between ok pain, and pain. If something feels odd one day, then it might be ok (you slept funny/tweaked something/walked too much in the wrong shoes/whatever). But if the same thing hurts the next day – STOP RUNNING IMMEDIATELY. And take the day off.

For more info on days off:


Kara Goucher knows it's better to take a day off now than be injured later

Runner's World Articles:

"The Rest Is Easy"


The best regimen includes speed, distance, and days off. The trick is in the mix."

 "Make Every Run Great" 

2. Not resting enough. The day after a hard workout, you may be tempted to train even harder. Beware! Just when you're motivated to push to new limits, you're also most prone to getting injured. Take a day off from running, or at least go very easy the day after a long or hard run (especially a race).

"Bring Balance To Your Week"

3. Rest 1 day per week. If nothing else, the planned day off frees you from thinking you must find time to run every day.