Every now and then our body tells us we need to slow down and take an additional rest day and that is perfectly ok! There are several physiological as well as psychological reasons why we should schedule regular rest days. Here are few great reasons why it’s so important, and why you shouldn’t beat yourself up if you have to take an extra day here and there if you’re body is begging for it.
1. Let Your Muscles (Re)grow
When we engage in strenuous physical activity our muscles break down. It’s during that time that our muscles repair themselves, becoming stronger and more efficient. Your muscles need that time to rebuild, without it they will continue to tear. This continuous break down of your muscles leads to several issues (as stated below) but most importantly it will negatively effect the improvements to your strength you are working so hard for. This is also why it is important not to train the same muscle groups on consecutive days (when it comes to weight lifting). So when it comes to cross training, be sure to alternate your strength training days and do not neglect the importance of a rest day!
2. Prevents Fatigue
We exercise so that can look good, be stronger but more importantly to feel good. Exercise, along with proper nutrition and sleep, help boost our energy levels and our mood. But there is such thing as too much of a good thing. When we over-train and neglect rest, our bodies become fatigued. This causes us to lose energy, have trouble sleeping and it even effects our mood. It becomes a vicious cycle because when we are fatigued, we will not have the energy to workout. Without the energy to workout, we will not meet our goals and of course our mood will be negatively effected by that as well. Listen to your body, take rest days and your body will thank you for it with the energy it needs to keep going in the gym, out on the trail and in life!
3. Prevent Mental Exhaustion
Your mind can get just as burnt out as your body. Life is all about balance. We have to be able to physically and mentally enjoy what we do otherwise it will soon feel more like a daunting task than enjoyable activity. Taking proper rest not only helps you physically, but emotionally as well. It helps prevent boredom, rekindle your hunger for exercise (you know you miss it when it’s gone ;-)), and of course recharge your psyche. Not to mention when you are physically tired, your brain cannot function at full capacity, so rest days are win-win for body and mind.
4. Keep Your Immune System Strong
Over-training has been known to weaken your immune system, making you more susceptible to fatigue and illness. When you engage in consistent strenuous activity, your body’s immune system is there to help make the necessary repairs to your muscles and joints. Without proper rest, your immune system can not keep up with the demands you are putting on your body. Without an efficient immune system, you are more likely to become ill and then you will have no choice but to take additional rest days to re-cooperate. Do not wait until you’re already sick to take rest days, be sure to take them weekly in order to prevent a hit to your immune system.
5. Injury Prevention
From running to weight lifting, and everything in between, rest days help prevent the overuse of muscles and joints. Without allowing the proper rest, this overuse will eventually make you more susceptible to injury. There is only so much our muscles and joints can take at any given time before they begin to wear down. It is important you not only allow yourself regularly scheduled rest days, but also that you are listening to your body when it is telling you that you have had enough. Pushing ourselves through extreme fatigue and pain will only set us back in the long run because we will become injured and, of course, have no choice but to rest then, whether we like it or not.
The key to rest days is to schedule them in your regular workout routine. Chose a day of the week where it will fit best and commit to it. If an opportunity arises for a race, workout or strenuous physical activity, plan in advance and reschedule your rest day, but don’t skip it that week. Also, it is tremendously important that you listen to your body. Some times it will be begging you to slow down and take an extra day or two of rest. Trust me here, a few days off will certainly not set you back in your goals. In fact, the much needed rest will have you coming back stronger than before and ready to go out and crush it!
In a follow up to my previous blog Final Thoughts Before Your First Marathon, I thought I’d blog about some of the first things to consider once you have finished the race. First and foremost, congratulations on be come part of the less than 1% of the world’s population. You are officially a MARATHONER!!! Months of training and sacrifice lead up to a handful of hours of running, a shiny new medal and a lot of thoughts, emotions and possibly some blisters and soreness. Don’t fret, everything you are feeling is totally normal. Here are a few things to consider within these next couple of days post marathon.
You run those last .2 miles and cross that finish line. You’re handing your medal, embrace your friends and family and now feel on top of the world. That high can last for several hours to days. But one thing is certain in life, what goes up, must come down. You just spent the last several months of your life preparing for one event. A huge, life changing event at that. But now you’re left feeling somewhat empty and even saddened. What’s next? It happens to the best of us and the best thing to do is just enjoy the time off to just enjoy running for the pure joy of running. Not having to worry about long runs, speed work, cross training, etc., and just getting to go jog is such a liberating and fun feeling. It will allow you to reconnect with the joy of running after months of it feeling like a job. Also, take this time to start consider what your next big event will be. Having a future goal in mind will help keep you going with all that progress you made during training for this one.
Eat All The Food
I don’t know about you, but after a marathon, I want to eat EVERYTHING! You just burned lord know how many calories out on the road. You will certainly need more food post race than any regular day. Your body and soul need to indulge, so let go and live a little, after all you earned it! But also keep in mind how important it is not just to eat because you’re hungry and deserving of lots of food, but also recognize you eat to refuel. Be sure to focus on eating healthy fats, proteins and of course carbohydrates. Once you have replenished those calories burned, you don’t necessarily need much more than that, so indulge, but do so wisely.
Could’ve, Should’ve, Would’ve
One of the most common things I struggle with post marathon, and I hear from so many other runners are the “if I had only done this or that, then I would have done better.” Yes, each race is definitely a learning experience and can help better prepare you for the next race. But what’s done is done and you should leave it all out on the course. You gave it your all and you finished! This is the first time you have done something this physically, and possibly emotionally, demanding. Takes some to to appreciate that, and not take away from what you did with any regrets you may have about it. You only cross the finish line of your first marathon once, and it is an experience like no other! There will be other races, you will have other chances to do better. So cherish every moment of the HUGE accomplishment you just made!
Rest Up, Then Get Moving
The first time you try and run after your first marathon can be a VERY humbling experience. Your legs may feel like lead, your feet can be blistered and your whole body will be sore. Your wobbly legs, achy hips and tired feet may have you feeling like you may never run again, but trust me, you will! My advice, take it slow, have no expectations and just listen to your body. The first couple of attempts at running post marathon may involve more walking than running, and that is perfectly OK. As mentioned in my previous post, be sure to take time for some mobility and stretching exercises too. Loosen up those muscles and then get moving again. Your body and mind will thank you for it!
You may be thinking “I am never doing that again!” Or you could be looking at the race calendar planning out your next full marathon. Wherever you are with your thoughts on marathons, here are a few Do’s and Don’t’s for moving forward…
Don’t judge all marathons off of the first experience. The weather could have been terrible, the training may have been wrong for you or the nerves could have just gotten the best of you. So if it wasn’t the absolute best experience of your life, think about giving it another shot with with some adjustments to have a better experience the next time. Never say never!
Don’t jump right back into training for another distance event. Give your body and mind some time to relax and enjoy what you just accomplished. If you’ve caught the marathon bug, that is awesome, but give yourself a couple of months before you start training for your next one. Going at it too quickly without proper recovery may put you in a position for over training, which could lead to injury or illness.
Do set some goals if you plan to do another one. Now you have a good idea what a race of 26.2 miles feels like. You know what pace you had, what your finish time was and how all that felt. It’s not out of the question to do better at your next one, so think about what a PR would look like for you and work towards making that happen.
Do show proud and shout from the roof tops what you just did! A marathon is a HUUUUUGE accomplishment and certainly something to be proud of. Don’t think for a second you are “annoying” your friends and family with all your post race chatter. They should be so incredibly proud of you as you should be insanely proud of yourself. Bring your medal to work. Post your race photos on social media. Share your stories of the race with your loved ones. It’s an incredibly feeling and you shouldn’t have to hide. Take pride, you’re a MARATHONER!
I just want to once again congratulate you all on accomplishing such a huge goal. Not just running the actual race, but for all the months of hard work and dedication that lead up to it. It takes so much physically and mentally to take on the beast otherwise known as the marathon and you did it!