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  • Writer's pictureMargaret Ho

Why I'm Taking a Rest Day

Nutrition: ✔️

Strength Training: ✔️

Stretching/Mobility: ✔️

Attitude: ✔️

Recovery: ...

Recovery is by far the hardest aspect to assess. It’s so easy to fall in the more-is-better mindset. Do more. Put in more effort. Work harder. Part of this stems from the fear that if I don’t achieve my goal, it’s on me. If I don’t achieve my goal, it’s because I didn’t work hard enough. I didn’t put in enough mileage, push myself hard enough in workouts, do enough strength training.

But what is enough, and what is too much?

Maybe this speaks to most competitive athletes. The competitive athlete is typically a high achiever, goal-oriented, a perfectionist. Someone who needs to have control over every aspect of the process. Maybe it speaks to our American culture. Bigger is better. More is better. Go-big-or-go home. Super-size me. Make everything extreme, all-or-nothing, or what’s the point!

Yet recovery is a crucial component of the training process. It’s easiest when recovery is built in to the plan itself. A scheduled rest day or easy cross-training day is your daily box to check. Give yourself a gold star for the day, you followed the plan! That’s money in the bank to cash in on race day. But recovery doesn’t always follow a schedule. Either you take recovery when you need it, or recovery takes you – through injury, burnout, or general drop in performance – regardless of what’s on the training plan.

So why am I taking a rest day today? It’s not scheduled. I even have a scheduled rest day tomorrow. I could have done that 1 hour run today. I would have run it easy, and of course easy miles are valuable to build overall strength and efficiency. But I woke up this morning and I didn’t really want to run.

I have to want to run. I have to enjoy the process. Sometimes I don’t "want" to run, but I want to. That’s more like a “but I don’t WANNNNA” of getting out of bed at 6 AM to run, but having the discipline to do so. And when I get outside and feel the fresh cool breeze and see the glowing sun rise, feeling so grateful for the ability to run.

Other times, fortunately infrequently, I just don’t want to run. For runners at a high level of training, there are common signs to watch out for that more recovery is needed. Get to know the signs and tune into your body and mind’s messages. Some common signals to err on the side of extra rest are as follows:

• Fatigue

• High resting heart rate

• More effort to run an average pace

• Emotional changes, i.e. higher anxiety levels and irritability

• Harder to fall asleep at night

• Changes in appetite

• Loss of motivation

I woke up this morning after hitting snooze about 5 times. Not typical for me. I was still tired, fatigued, and just felt a bit blah. I got up and felt stiff and sore. It didn’t help that it was pouring rain. The treadmill sounded less like dreadmill and more like a hellmill. And you know, I just didn’t feel like running.

And so I didn’t. And that’s ok. I got other things done instead – cleaning, dishes, all the stuff that goes to the bottom of the list when there are other priorities. I still have my goal in mind, but I have experienced burnout before and it’s brutal. I’d much rather go into a race slightly undertrained and excited to race than overtrained and dreading the race. When any signs start to come on, pile on the rest! A few solid rest days do a world of good – that, and some extra chocolate.

So I took my unscheduled rest day today, and I will take my scheduled rest day tomorrow. The next time I run, I will hit my splits, because I listened to my body and my mind. I will feel like I’m flying, because I put my trust in the process over the plan. I let myself recover and recharge so when race day comes, I will be ready.

- Margaret

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