Running can be a great form of exercise because it is a high calorie burn, strengthens the leg muscles and can help relieve mental stress. Training for a race can also be very rewarding once you reach your goal.
Whenever you start out with a new exercise, like running, it is best to start gradually. If you are new to running, you probably should not run every day. However, some experienced or elite runners do run every day, but that is not always the case. Any seasoned runner will tell you it is best to listen to your body and to take a rest day when you need it.
Listen to your body
What does listening to your body mean? It means if you are hurting anywhere, that is the body’s way of trying to tell you it could use some rest. Running every day can be bad for you if you are pushing through physical pain that can lead to a more serious injury. It’s almost always best to take a rest day if something is bothering you instead of pushing through pain.
If your muscles are simply sore from a hard work out, you can probably still go for an easy run. The bigger concern is if the pain is not merely from sore muscles, it is from a deeper injury that could lead to something worse. Listening to your body is important and can be over looked by runners, especially if they are concerned of missing a day of running.
Listening to your body can also mean if you are unduly fatigued, your body may need physical rest. If you are exhausted or if you are struggling through an easy run, you may want to listen to your body and take some rest.
Listening to your body does not mean not running just because you don’t feel like it. Don’t confuse mentally not wanting to run with a physical symptom.
The importance of rest days
Rest days should be incorporated into your workout routine because rest is important. During rest, your body repairs the muscles. Exercise tears muscles down, and rest can help build them back up. Rest days also allow for the joints to have a reprieve from the pounding stress that running puts on knees and hip joints. Because of these reasons, not running every day and taking some rest days may help with injury prevention.
Rest also keeps you from getting stagnant and can give you a needed mental break. A day off can help you stay motivated to run the next day.
There are many factors that can determine how much rest is needed including age, athletic level, body type, exercise goals, etc. In other words, everyone has some individuality in terms of what works best for rest. Some people are able to have minimal days when they take completely off running, but other people may need to consistently take a few days off per week from running.
Vary your intensities
Varying your intensity during running is important for many reasons. For one, if you vary your running intensities you will probably be able to run more days a week than if you always run the same pace. Some “rest” days could still entail running but it is at a slow pace and short distance.
There are different methods for determining a running schedule that can be based on heart rate or perceived exertion. Most running guide lines will alternate easy days with days that have harder intensity runs. Even if you vary intensities though, you may still need to take days off completely from running.
Not running every day can allow for balanced muscle toning and strengthening weak areas in your body. Doing the same type of exercise every time may increase risk for injury, especially if you don’t take off any days.
Cross training can be considered any exercise that is not running. For example, it could be biking, hiking, stair stepping, elliptical, etc. You are still working your muscles but a different way than running does. Incorporating cross training on some days instead of running can really help lower risk of injury for some people. It can also help strengthen other muscles running does not target.
Strength training should not be over looked as an important part of a running program. On your days when you don’t run, you can focus on strength training which can also lower risk of injury.
Running every day may be bad for you simply because you may not be allowing your body adequate rest to rebuild your muscles and give your joints a break. Some people can run every day and be fine, but in general that is not true for most.
Rest days can be defined as simply running a lot slower than you are used to, taking the day completely off or doing another form of exercise instead of running. In the end, it is most important to listen to your body in determining of you should take a day off of running or not.