Three types of rest you need in your training

I’m feeling really good right now. That’s a big deal, because just a few days ago I was in the depths of being sick, low on energy, and still trying to push through it all. It sucked. I ended up taking a full rest day from work and exercise to recover, and then another day off training to make sure I was fighting fit again. It took a lot to allow myself those two days away from all training, but it was definitely the right decision to make.

Runners and triathletes are often Type-A personalities: we set ourselves a goal and then work single-mindedly towards achieving it. We follow training plans, and often think we should be training more – diminishing all the hard work we’ve already put in. When workouts need to be shifted around, the first thing to fall by the wayside is often rest. In reality, giving your body and mind time to recover is just as important as spending time training.

There are two types of rest, active and passive, which are both equally important in a training cycle. I want to suggest a third type though, which is often forgotten in amongst the excitement of event preparation.

1. ‘Active’ Rest

A training plan should always mix hard days with easy days, however will also include non-running days. Sometimes these rest days will call for you to undertake some form of cross-training, whether swimming, yoga or pilates. Cross-training is important to strengthen the muscles and keep the training varied. These days are considered ‘active’ rest, as although you are not performing your main activity you are still moving your body. Aim for two days a week as ‘active’ rest days to ensure a well-rounded training cycle.

2. ‘Passive’ Rest

In comparison to ‘active’ rest, a ‘passive’ rest day is one in which you do not do any form of exercise, other than going for a walk, stretching or foam-rolling. These days are designed to give your muscles a chance to recover from the stress which has been placed on the body. Typically, these would come after a hard session, or a few more intense days in a row. A good ‘passive’ rest day is Friday, to allow you to recover from the week’s training, and to prepare for the weekend ahead.

3. ‘Complete’ Rest

When we train, we place a lot of stress on the body. However, other aspects of life can also cause stress, such as work, family or social responsibilities. It is easy to forget the impact that it all together has, and this is often when you start to feel overwhelmed or burnt out. One solution is one or more complete rest days where you shut off from the world and focus solely on de-stressing. This may mean getting a massage, eating delicious food, or binging on episodes of a favourite TV show. It is time when you release yourself from all obligations and let yourself completely reset.

I rarely take a day of complete rest. I see weekends more as an opportunity to fit in more training as opposed to relaxing, and even on a sick day from work will still try and fit in a workout. It can feel as though rest days will set you back in your training, when they have the opposite effect. Recovery lets the body and mind get stronger so that you can come back ready for the next training block.

Scheduling in a complete rest day every few weeks is something I watn to incorporate into my own plans. My one this week has worked wonders, and I can think that it can only be beneficial to training. I’ve marked down July 2 for my next one, set a calendar event and everything. Hold me to it!

What’s your favourite way to relax?

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