Do We Really Need a Weekly Rest Day?

Do you need a weekly rest day?

‘I think you might have forgotten to schedule a rest day for me?’ my text to coach Mary said.

The reply came – ‘no, that’s not a mistake’, followed by an email explaining all the reasons behind the technique she’s using to make me a faster, stronger runner. THIS is the reason I have a coach.

Apparently Mary thinks I’m strong enough at this point in my running journey that I won’t spontaneously combust if I have some 7 days in a row on the plan. Clearly, she trusts my body more than I do.

Do you need a weekly rest day?

According to running coach Matt Fitzgerald, runners don’t necessarily become overwhelmed, fatigued or injury prone if they don’t have a regular rest day per week. It’s actually based on tradition rather than scientific evidence that most of us schedule in one day off.

It’s all down to the individual – some people fare better with more rest whilst others thrive with less. This can all depend on the training schedule, their running history (those who have just started running typically need longer for their nervous and endocrine systems to recover than those that have been running for years). However do not neglect rest days completely – according to Fitzgerald, even the fittest, most experienced runners need a rest day at least every four weeks or so.

Gradually building up the mileage, or adding a cross-training session on your previous rest day could be a way of easing into a 7 day running routine. Those extra workouts burn calories, and provide a ‘meaningful aerobic stimulus’ that will build up over the weeks and could add ‘a measurable difference to your peak race performance’.

Do you need a weekly rest day?

Do you need a weekly rest day?

Currently, my training is on the ‘light side’, according to Mary, (although it’s a lot more than I’ve ever done in previous marathon training cycles), and therefore adding an extra day easy running isn’t going to do any damage. We’re not up to the higher mileage, or intense speed work yet (again, this is relative as I’m definitely a little scared by some of the workouts on my schedule), so tacking on some easy miles can add to my fitness.

The goal over the next few months is to increase consistency with my running, until 45-60 min runs are no biggie (I still feel chuffed with every 6 mile run I knock out!). According to Mary, running is like building a house; you need a solid foundation first, that strong aerobic base needs to be developed before adding the aggressive speed work. We’re doing this not with junk miles, but with easy recovery runs for aerobic benefits (not to mention the happy endorphins that come with fun runs), but we’re building mitochondria. More mitochondria = more ATP/energy = increased ability to create more energy during intense runs.

As Mary put it ‘So, with easy runs, we’re making a big ole foundation, so that once we get to the fast stuff, you can build a mansion (PRs) instead of a shack (no PRs).’

Do you need a weekly rest day?

Ultimately, it’s important to listen to your body, if you think psychologically or physically you need that rest day, then it’s crucial that you take it. If running/training seven days a week doesn’t fit into your life, workout schedule or you’re just exhausted, then take a day off. There’s no need to hammer yourself into the ground, however you may also not need to take a rest day just for the sake of it.

P.S I’m trying out Hoka One One here in New Zealand – full review coming soon!

5 Comments

  1. 23rd December 2016 / 6:03 pm

    I rarely take a full rest day, honestly. Yesterday was as close as I have come to one in a long long time, and that was because I was sick! But even my rest days involve some sort of dedicated movement. We are such a sedentary culture–otherwise we just don’t get the movement in. And for my clients, their “off” days are active rest–they still need to do yoga, stay moving etc, and I will have them do VERY easy 30 minute runs on off days as well (for the less injury prone, at least). Of course, some people 100% must have a full rest day–for their body and mind. But I am not one of those at present! I’m also not really training for things right now, so I don’t have any really hard workouts.

  2. 24th December 2016 / 12:07 am

    I read your post and it resonates a lot with me. Consistency is really the key in running and taking a lot of days off is not the best way to improve (Unless you’re injured or really need those days off, like taper/recovery… that’s different). I am a 6 day a week runner, and I do occasionally take complete days off… but sometimes just a walk on your day off, or 30 min yoga, or PT exercises, can make a huge difference. I tried a streak challenge and that didn’t work for me, and I found that I do need the occasional complete rest day… but probably not as often as I thought I needed it.

  3. 24th December 2016 / 9:34 pm

    This was really interesting, thank you! I’d like to learn more about recovery times, so I think I might read some good literature on it all 🙂

  4. 28th December 2016 / 1:42 am

    Good post. I think rest days are required, depending on your mileage and the kind of workouts you’re doing. But factoring in what you do for a living is important too. For example, I’m an Outdoor Instructor and one of my roles is very physical so these working days I count as ‘time on feet’ or active recovery; my roles are never sedentary, so a full rest day is often required for me!
    My current program has weekly mileage in excess of 50 miles and increases each week, for a 70k ultra marathon and at least one full rest day is needed, with stretching and foam rolling. You’ve got to avoid burnout and stale routine.

    All the best and Happy New Year 🙂

  5. 29th December 2016 / 3:47 am

    Great post, great pics 🙂 Thanks for motivation!