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Ways That Runners Can ‘Survive’ Rest Days

*This appears in full on Amy Says So

Here’s a question to ask yourself. Surviving rest day might take mental maturity—do I have that?

Some people had very mature attitudes about rest days. Some people are even organized enough to plan a date night to coincide with their rest day. I’m impressed. I can’t even remember to schedule date night and to have my hair cut and styled. I hope to be like these organized ladies when I’m a grown up.

A lot of people mentioned the challenge of not eating all the snacks in the house on rest days. This is a real challenge. Rest or recovery days are when our bodies are rebuilding and you can be really hungry. Rungry or hangry, even. I have actually gotten much better at this over the years. Unless there are Oreos or Thin Mints in the house and then all bets are off.

I recently read a book about habits and it was very insightful. It talked a lot about how to change a habit you replace it with something. While I didn’t start this after reading the book it is the way I handle food changes.

On rest days (or taper weeks) when I know I’ll want to eat cookies, cakes, donuts, muffins and ice cream—not to mention potato chips and whatever else I can shove in my mouth—I do these things instead. I focus on making sure I get enough water. I actually log how much water I drink on those days to be sure. I also plan to make a veggie juice and a smoothie filled with anti-inflammatory ingredients during the day. This doesn’t mean I won’t eat cookies or donuts if they find their way in front of me, but it does reduce the chances of that being all I’ll eat.

Rest Versus Active Recovery

A few people commented that they did light workouts like yoga or an easy swim. This is called active recovery and there is a lot of research that it can be helpful. Most weeks is usually what I do. Sometimes after I take a full day of rest I feel sluggish and tired in the next day’s workouts. Instead, I go for a bike ride with my kids or a very light swim I feel energized. However, I did not do that this week because I knew I was very calorie deprived and dehydrated and even sunburnt from the weekend. So I ate good food and drank water and stretched all day.

Another comment was about feeling jealous seeing others workouts. I definitely experience this on rest days. For me a rest day is usually a Monday or a Wednesday because I do big training blocks on Saturday and Sunday. But for folks who aren’t long course training and aren’t triathlon training, they might have a weekend day off. So then Monday is a big day for hitting the gym. I have several trainer friends who post things like, “Never miss Monday.” every single Monday. And I do think it triggers guilt. These kinds of posts actually have a name—they are called fitspiration (a term that comes from fitness + inspiration). Sometimes you’ll see this shortened to “fitspo.” There’s a pretty significant amount of writing (not actual research but written opinion) that it can be good and bad. For me when I noticed on Monday that I was feeling “Comparisonitis” I went ahead and shut my Facebook down for the day. Instead, I played Slamwich (a card game) with my son. It’s hilarious. You should definitely get that game.

Rest Is Good. Recovery Is Good. It’s All Good.

So it was good that I took the whole day off on Monday. My body really did need a break. It needed lots of fluid, no time in the sun and just rest. And I got it. Then on Tuesday I was able to get up and hit it again with a bike trainer session and a one hour pool session. In both of those sessions I could still feel the weekend workouts in my legs. I made the right choice to rest Monday for sure.

What are your rest-day challenges? How do you handle it?