We all know that rest days are important for any kind of training to be successful and learning to appreciate rest days, I’ve found, requires just as much practice as training itself. This winter when I was marathon training I would often experience various levels of guilt on my off days and I know I am not alone. Despite the anxiety I sometimes felt by not running, I knew it was important that my body get a break from the impact and stresses of running.
I’ve read many articles and heard from a number of coaches and other runners that rest days do not have to be days of complete inactivity. When it comes to running, rest days are anything from a light run to a cross-training activity to weight training to Pilates. I fully admit to having been very inconsistent in how I used to spend my rest days and more often than not would choose to do nothing rather than cross-train. All that changed when I started triathlon training.Going from a five to six day per week running schedule down to running just twice a week was a strange transition. I am still working out five to six days a week but of course the other days are reserved for swimming and biking. Swimming has taken a great amount of focus and concentration but my rides so far have not required the mental focus of swimming, so I found myself thinking about running while I was biking. Somehow in all my thinking about running while cross-training I didn’t notice anymore that I was running less.
What I did notice is that my running has improved. My off days from running have been filled with swimming and biking which has in turn allowed different muscles to develop strength, I have experienced different kinds of endurance, and as a result my runs are much more rewarding. Each tempo run I can do with a little more consistent speed, each hill I can ascend with more energy, and my long runs…well, I haven’t noticed much of a difference in my long runs yet but I expect a change is coming!
I also think that by spending the off running days swimming or biking that running has become much more of a treat and is almost a reward for having done the other work-outs. With two run sessions per week one has a specific training purpose–tempo, hills, or intervals–and the second run day is a long run. Considering that I am going to be overlaying half marathon and then marathon training with the triathlon training, I will probably add in a run session or two on my swim days just so I can get my mileage increased.
But, my rest and my off days will remain an important part of the schedule!