Do you really need a rest day?

Do you really need a rest day?

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When you're training hard you must have a rest day- fact or fiction? Find out if you really need a day off, or if you can train through, 7 days a week.

When training is going well, it seems that enforced rest days are an inconvenience, something that interrupts your running schedule. And for many people, the usually chosen rest day is Sunday, when they may be recovering from the effects of Saturday night!

So… are rest days essential?

What does the science say?

There is surprisingly little research into the requirement for rest days, or how many are optimal.

It’s likely that everyone is different, and how 'fit' you are for your sport will affect how much rest you need. For example, there are many runners who run successfully seven days a week!

We do know the body can take 48-72 hours to recover from a sudden increase in training or a particularly high workload.

When should you rest?

You can use some simple steps to gauge when you require a rest day. If you start getting easily fatigued, or pick up frequent injuries, or find your motivation drops- that's an indication for rest in your schedule.

In other words, you know your body- use it as a guide. Monitor motivation, sleep, injuries, diet, fatigue etc.

Are you too tired to exercise?

Many athletes find a training diary helps immensely with this - there are plenty of good diaries freely available on the web. Building rest days into your schedule can help some maintain a better balance between home, work & fitness goals.

How to keep a training journal

In the worst-case scenario, too few rest days may lead to overtraining syndrome, so listen to your body.

What activity should you do on your rest day?

This also varies hugely. A high-mileage runner may call a rest-day a light 5km run around the park, whereas a lower mileage runner may do a lower impact activity such as cycling or swimming.

A complete beginner may find a complete rest day or two is sensible as they build up. Other sportspeople such as triathletes, may choose a low intensity swim or cycle on the rest day, or sometimes choose to do another activity altogether.

Whatever you choose to do - make sure it's enjoyable!

This article first appeared on Sydney Physiotherapy Solutions


Tell us, what do you do on your training rest day?


Sydney Physiotherapy Solutions is a group of leading Physiotherapy clinics, based in the Sydney CBD and Chatswood.

Dr Brad McIntosh and the team at Sydney Physiotherapy Solutions are our 'go-to' physios for the Blackmores Sydney Running Festival.

For more information, see the Sydney Physiotherapy Solutions website.