For those of you in an active training cycle and probably gearing up for all of the fun summer races, you may be wondering about how to include rest days. We know exercise is good for you, but the body does have its limits and it is possible to get to a point that you are breaking down more than you are building up. A study completed involving endurance cyclists showed that after only 7 days of increased training intensity with low recovery time there can be detrimental effects. The study showed a “9.3% reduction in maximal heart rate, a 5% reduction in maximal oxygen uptake, and an 8.6% increase in perception of effort.” As athletes we all want to stay at the top of our game, and constantly increasing the intensity is NOT the best way to do that.
Rest/recovery days are important to give your body re-building time. USAT Level 1 coach Maria Simone explains that a rest day “allows for extended recovery, thus permitting the body to adapt more fully to a previous training cycle. Rest days also give the body time to refill glycogen stores, prevent overtraining and avoid mental burnout.” And Runner’s World magazine reports “a day off every 7 to 14 days restocks glycogen stores, builds strength, and reduces fatigue.” If you have been hitting the trail running 7 days a week, it may be time to take a rest. I know that rest may be a 4-letter word to some athletes, but rest does not have to mean sitting on the couch and watching TV for a day straight! Trying a yoga class or other cross training that is performed at a lower intensity may be the best option for you.