Building up the endurance to run a 10k or swim for miles doesn’t happen overnight. Endurance athletes push their bodies to the absolute max to perform for long periods without stopping. But as hard as they train, endurance athletes know the value of rest days. It’s important to give your body a break, allowing sore muscles to heal and grow back stronger.
There is a bit of confusion on what a rest day is and how many days off you should be taking. Rest days don’t require you to sit around all day, but you should avoid strenuous activity. As for duration, it depends on how you feel and the level of intensity you are training.
Continue reading for the answers to common questions about endurance athletes and rest days.
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The answer is a resounding yes. Endurance athletes know that to reach their long-term goals, they need time to recover. Rest is not only essential but just as important as training days.
One of the top reasons endurance athletes incorporate rest days is to help rebuild their muscles. During endurance training, you’re actively tearing down muscles. By taking a rest day and fueling their body properly, endurance athletes allow their muscles to rebuild and strengthen. This is essential for progress and further training success.
A good rest day can help you avoid potential injury. An overworked body is increasingly more susceptible to injuries. In contrast, when your body has a chance to recover, the risk of injury is greatly reduced. That’s because your body has had time to rest and rebuild, which means you can hit the next training day stronger.
Mental burnout is real for endurance athletes. It may not come first to mind, but mental burnout can lead to wasted training days because you can’t focus. Endurance training requires being in the right mindset for the best performance.
Lastly, taking rest days can be very beneficial for overcoming plateaus. If an athlete struggles to progress in their training, they may simply need to rest and switch things up a bit. With time to rest and reset, endurance athletes can more easily identify what’s causing them to plateau and find a solution. Otherwise, they risk continuing as normal and continuing to plateau.
The number of rest days that endurance athletes need can differ depending on a variety of factors. The American Council on Exercise suggests that endurance athletes take a rest day every 7-10 days, but this isn't a hard and fast rule.
Some athletes may feel that they need to rest more often, while others may be able to go longer without issues. Factors such as age, gender, and intensity level can all come into play. It’s important to take all of these factors into account and to listen to your body. Pushing yourself is how you’ll reach your goals, but knowing when to rest will help you sustain those goals.
When it comes to rest days, actual rest must take place. That doesn’t mean you’re sleeping all day, but rather not over-stressing your body. Try to get an hour or two of extra sleep, stay hydrated, and fuel your body right.
Some activities, such as going for a walk, yoga, or stretching, are all great ways to use your rest day. However, most of the day should be spent resting for as long as possible.
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