Rest days are an important component of any training schedule, and especially so for endurance athletes.
As an endurance athlete, you train your body with volume, and through the process, can teach your body how to recover on easy days. But it is still important to include rest days– often with no running, and even without cross training– as part of your schedule.
First, when we are training, we cause microscopic tears in our muscle tissue. The rest days allow our cells to repair those micro tears. The repair helps our muscle tissue to heal and grow. The healing and growing process leads to stronger muscles.
Second, our muscles store carbohydrates in the form of sugars known as glycogen. Our bodies rely on the glycogen as an energy source during our training. Regularly breaking down the glycogen stores teach our body to be efficient in endurance activities, but the rest days give our bodies time to replenish these all important energy stores.
Additionally, as exercise depletes the glycogen levels, your muscles become more fatigued and sore. Conversely, replacing your glycogen stores to refill, you prevent this fatigue and soreness, thereby allowing you to train harder.
Third, training causes repetitive stress on your muscles. The stress and associated strain increases the risk of overuse injuries. Rest days reduce the risk of overuse injuries, limiting the likelihood of long term rest to recover from those injuries.
Finally, no matter how emotionally and mentally strong you are; no matter how much you love the sport; no matter how committed you are to improvement; no matter how die hard of an athlete you are that you don’t want to miss a day training, we all need some emotional and mental rest. This rest allows us to stay hungry and push through the fatigue and self-doubt.
Don’t be afraid to incorporate rest days into your schedule.