Although taking brakes from your running schedule may seem counter-intuitive, it’s the best way to increase your fitness. According to Running Times, “recovery is the restoration of energy-producing enzymes inside the muscles, functional proteins, carbohydrate stores and the regeneration of the endocrine and immune systems.” When the body has time to rest it repairs, restores and refuels itself so you can reach maximum fitness.
Unfortunately, rest and recovery days don’t exactly mean sitting in your house all day long gorging on pot stickers. The body requires stimulation every day and light activity can prevent the body from stiffening up. Some good activities for rest days are walking, stretching, swimming or riding a bike. However, your heart rate should only be slightly above normal when preforming these activities.
Your body can also help you understand when to take a rest day. If you notice a drop in your weight from one day to the next, you likely are dehydrated. If you find yourself losing weight, consider taking a rest day to rehydrate.
Another sure sign you need a break in an increase in heart rate. If your resting heart rate is elevated, your body is likely releasing hormones to fight the physical stresses of running. Take a rest day and ensure you get enough sleep to calm your nervous system.
There are several other patterns that indicate a need for rest. Runners should also pay attention to their mood, pain and performance to understand when it’s time to take a break from training.
On top of natural recovery, there are several products that help runners recover faster. One of the widest used tools among athletes are foam rollers. Rolling out helps relieve muscle tension and can reduce the risk of injury from running. It also saves athletes from expensive trips to a massage therapist.
Another great tool for training recovery is called The Stick. The Stick is a flexible massage tool that helps increase flexibility and relieve muscle pain.
Runners can also increase their flexibility and retain training gains through active isolated stretching. This method uses a rope to gently stretch your muscles a little further than they would naturally. This increased stretching helps reprogram your brain and allows your body to remember new ranges of motion.
If you don’t take proper time for rest and recovery, your body won’t adapt to your training efforts. Ensure that you listen to your body and take days off days when you need them so you can log the long miles later on.