Ah the rest day.
I have come to have a love hate relationship with the rest day!
It is supposed to be a time when your muscles mend themselves, building strength for the next time we tear them apart again in some way. I so wish it would feel like strength building!
What I tend to get are legs that want to run, especially when I’m trying to get to sleep! Then my legs feel heavy and I have creeping guilt that maybe I should have run actually, despite what the plan says, I look at my metrics, you will maybe know by now I am a number nerd(!) and I see the subtle downtick in the numbers each time I have a rest day, with this softened by an overall positive trend which tempers my behaviour!
Still, it doesn’t feel good, yet, if you had asked me some years ago if staying warm and dry out of whichever storm happens to be battering us that day, feels good? I would have answered absolutely yes! Nowadays, I just find myself getting itchy to get back out and run, regardless of the weather, or indeed, to jump on my treadmill, but, I heed the plan. Feeling fat, angsty downright grumpy!
On the flip side, I have learned to trust the fact that my body needs rest, despite the part of my brain claiming super human abilities to just keep running like a demented Forrest Gump on drugs, noting that, having recently run along part of The Ridgeway and finding that actually I was more like a very old man ascending a mountain of custard while wearing skates! I find it generally best to have the rest regardless of how it makes me feel. The performance changes are notable during my training plan cycles of high and low intensity, while in a high intensity cycle, the rest improves my performance and perceived effort upon returning to running the following day, in the low intensity, I notice it less, but it’s there.
I try to adapt my plan or non-running activities around the rest days if I can, with varying levels of success, this often creates a little more ease in my busy life while managing a busy job, supporting the needs of a loving family and preparing for a new baby while trying to train for an ultra trail marathon of 62 miles over 2 days. Ultimately, each time, something has to give and sometimes I have to skip a run if something else has a higher demand on me, especially if I have already had a rest day.
I think all runners have these challenges, but possibly it is even harder for people training for ultras as the demand on time is greater and the risks higher. Training for a marathon is tough, when I ran London in 2017, I had not trained nearly enough and on the day, it showed, but I got around and I completed my task. If I miss too much training for the ultra, although this is a well supported one and I’m not going to be stuck out on my own in the middle of a desert somewhere, the effect of missing training will be magnified due to the distance, the terrain and the sheer time on my feet. So my priority is to stick to the plan as much as possible, albeit, I know I have to adapt, the one thing you cannot gain back is time, miss the training and you are too late. Simple as that! You have to move on.
Coming back to rest days, they are important for your body, my view is that if you are training with a specific target in mind, rather than just running for the sake of it, then you should not run every day, be kind to your body and listen to it, most times it knows what it’s talking about! If you must run, I suggest using a treadmill as the impact is reduced, otherwise, find another way to exercise, I hear cycling and swimming is also good for you(!), plus it looks ominously like we will have plenty of chances to swim (at least around here anyway!).