What are proactive rest days? And why should you be taking them?

Jacob Moreton
·2-min read
Photo credit: Getty Images
Photo credit: Getty Images

All too often, runners use rest days as a reaction to fatigue or injury. But proactive rest days – building in periods of recovery even when you’re feeling fresh – should be an essential component of any runner’s training.

‘You need to stress the body, and then you need to recover to improve your performance,’ says running coach Robbie Britton (robbiebritton.co.uk). ‘If you keep smashing the life out of it, you could end up facing burnout, depleted nutrients, or worse.’

So how can runners build effective recovery into their training? Find what works for you, says Britton. ‘You can be active seven days a week – but you could replace a run with a cycle.’

Plus, tune in to what your body is telling you. ‘Sometimes that might be out to do a session and thinking, “You know what, I need an extra day of recovery. Maybe I should do an easy run today.”’

Consider the wider context, too. ‘It’s not just your running,’ says Britton. ‘It’s your whole work, life, family, stress. It’s not just your body that needs to recover, it’s your mind.”

Alongside listening to your body, one way of becoming proactive with rest and recovery if you’re training for a race, is to follow a plan that builds in easier weeks every third week. This allows your body time to adapt and recover to the training load, before you get too knackered or pick up an injury.

Rules of recovery

  1. ‘Find what works for you. Find what helps you recover, both physically and psychologically. A rest day doesn’t have to be not moving, but it can be if that’s right for you.’

  2. ‘Think about how you feel on those days. You’re recovering from the harder efforts and your body might need a bit more carbohydrate or protein.’

  3. ‘Don’t be afraid of active recovery – like cycling or walking with the family. Gentle activity can help the recovery process.”

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