In first grade I started gymnastics and from 3rd grade through middle school, I spent 5 days a week, 3 hours a day at the gym. At the back of the gym hung a banner that said “IF YOU REST YOU RUST.” I often think of this banner. What a great saying for athletes to live by and what an awful saying for athletes to live by. It is so true and so false. We need rest for so many reasons, but if you rest too much and don't push yourself you will not improve and make the gains that you might want to. Runners and triathletes tend to have no problem pushing themselves and working hard, it's the whole RESTING thing that we have problems with - working out is always on our mind.
We NEED rest. We need rest in order to replenish glycogen stores and repair damaged tissue. Lack of rest leads to over-training; over-training leads to decreased performance and injuries. No rest = no good. But rest & recovery comes in many forms. Recovery doesn't always mean taking the day off and sitting on the couch. Active recovery days are equally important. An easy run, a walk, an easy bike ride, an easy swim, foam rolling, any low intensity exercise that still allows your body to recover. There are mixed reviews on the benefits active recovery, but I am definitely on board with it!
There are also just REST days. These are so important. I have found that even more important than respecting the dedicated rest days in my training schedule is the ability to know my body and recognize when it is telling me it needs an extra day off. This doesn’t mean taking a day off because I’m not in the mood or had a bad day or I’m feeling lazy, but knowing when my body has just been too stressed and needs an extra day to recover a bit.
I firmly believe, especially in triathlon training, that taking an extra rest day is OK and often necessary if my body is asking for it. Some weeks our training schedules only have active recovery scheduled, no true rest days… the body can only handle so many days/weeks of constant activity. I will not "rust" if I have 8 or 10 workouts one week instead of 10 or 12, especially if it is active recovery workouts that get skipped. No, this does not happen every week or even every two weeks, but if my body is stressed to an extreme, I know it and I have learned to be smart about it. Respect your body! If you don’t listen to and respect your body you will likely end up with an injury that will keep you totally out of the game, I don’t know about you, but I’d rather have a couple of extra rest days during training than be injured!
I used to tell myself “If you rest, you rust” on the days when I was feeling lazy to get my butt on the road or in the pool, but then I also had to remind myself that I will not rust if I need an extra day of true rest and recovery. The quote contradicts itself. It is important for me to know the difference between a lazy day and a truly over-fatigued and stressed body and not to question myself when I NEED that extra rest day. So I have found a better quote to get myself moving on those lazy days: “Ninety-nine percent of the failures come from people who have the habit of making excuses.” No excuses. And a quote to remind myself that rest days are GOOD: "The most important day in any running program is rest. Rest days give your muscles time to recover so you can run again. Your muscles build in strength as you rest."
No rusting here.
What are your thoughts on active recovery?
What gets you off your butt on lazy days?
How often do you need to throw in an extra rest day?