Do I really need a running rest day?

I’ve grown addicted to running, although I honestly hated it when I started. Body parts talked back to me with unhappy attitudes. But now I find it harder and harder to take a day off from it. When I do, I grow a little antsy and restless. I itch to step outside and crank out a few miles. I cringe over calories.

Sure, if I go more than three days without running, I find it harder to grow my gumption to get back out there (especially when the weather is crummy). But if I skip just one day, I can hardly wait to return to the roadway or trail.

I have come to understand that a running rest day is a must, every once in a while.

Sports medicine experts frequently advise runners to give their bodies the opportunity to repair themselves after arduous or repeated exercise. Several days of training or an intense race fit that bill.

We don’t always heed that advice.

A few years ago, for example, I did a 5K race six days after completing my first half marathon. And I was sorry for it, as I wound up with Achilles tendon pain that lasted for several weeks. It was a rookie mistake for sure.

Definitely, seasoned runners with sufficient conditioning and mileage can pack their race and training schedules tighter than newbies. But even the world’s top runners take days off regularly as well.

Nope, ace athletes don’t sit around and merely munch on bon-bons. They do stretching exercise days, cross-training days (perhaps biking, swimming, rowing, or pursuing another fitness activity), or yoga days. And sometimes they even build actual down-time into their workout calendars.

Hey, even the most buffed bodies need time to recover after gritty challenges.

I’m far from that, but I’ve learned the hard way that a running rest day can be just what the doctor ordered. I try not to run more than four or five days in a row. And I try to take a rest day following a race. That’s just what works for me.

On the off-day, I’ll walk my dog, ride my horse, or do some yardwork. But I’ll stay out of the sneakers.

That way, I actually crave the next run, and I may even run a little faster for it.

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