On the Value of Rest Days

Remember the old days? When you could run every day and never feel even a twinge?


Oh yes. I remember.

But now. After being a runner (off and on) for more than three decades? Skipping a rest day is no longer an option. I wanted to do the Runner’s World Run Streak last winter, but it was a BAD idea.

I read about and envy runners who can and do run every day for years and years and years.

And then I have a weekend like this one. No runs. Zero. Nada. Zilch.

Sad runner.

Except not really. Because I’ve learned the value of taking a break. I’ve learned that my body needs a day off once and a while. A day to rest, recuperate, rebuild.

If I want to continue to run for the next 20 years or so (and I do), I need to be disciplined enough to let myself heal from the wear and tear that continued running inflicts. And I’m in good company. Amby Burfoot thinks so too.

And it’s not just my body that heals. After a day or two of not running, I return to running more enthusiastic and motivated. Today I find I can hardly wait to tie my shoes on and get out there tomorrow morning. Even my Thursday hills look inviting.

Maybe absence does make the heart grow fonder. As long as the absence isn’t too long.

I know the fear is that we’ll get fat and out of shape if we take some time off. But the reality is that you can take up to 10 days off without really losing any fitness, and even then, you can take two weeks off – TWO WEEKS PEOPLE – and your VO2 max (VO2 max is a measure of the maximum volume of oxygen that an athlete can use) will only decrease by 6 percent. You can regain that little bit in a week or two of regular training.

So bottom line? Take a break. Life is busy. You work hard. Take some time to nap in a hammock. Read a good book. Play with the dog. And when you’re ready to go back. Enjoy.


*** Image courtesy of Savit Keawtavee at FreeDigitalPhotos.net


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