The New Year brings with it all kinds of good intentions. Social media is full of great examples of inspirational people who are already training hard, as well as those who are getting back to exercise. For distance runners, the April marathon season is only just around the corner. We are into the 16 week build up to a whole host of major races. It is inspiring to see what people are doing with tough sessions completed and the mileage adding up. Keep it going. Train hard. Enjoy the work and the rewards that go with it. But do not forget the rest day and here are some of my key thoughts, from a 37 year old, who is starting on why managing his body is so important.

1. Rest to Run Faster

Well-conditioned endurance athletes do not take many days off. A well-balanced programme and sub maximal exercise allows you to train day after day. However, as I have moved into my late 30s, the need to manage my body is becoming more apparent. A tough workout creates significant muscle damage. Hill sprints, a tough rep session, or say a 20 miler will do just that. Muscular recovery can take up to 72 hours, and without the required rest, the adaptation to training will not be maximised. A day of total rest allows the muscles, ligaments and tendons to recover from the constant loading and become stronger. The result is better speed and endurance.

2. Mental Rejuvenation

We might love training. Our goals are fitness related. Mileage is important. But it can take its toll. I find that a rest day allows me to kick back and switch off, making me ready to hit it hard again the next day. For me it is important to be planned. If I am due to run and end up not going – I feel guilty. If I “earn” the right to rest through a number of consecutive days or a particularly demanding session, I can switch off without the feeling of guilt.

3. Tired Bodies Increase the Risk of Injury

When you are tired your form suffers. When your technique dips the forces that go through the body from landing poorly, loss of height and over striding, significantly increase. Have you ever run with tight muscles? A niggle in the calf? Tight hamstring? A sore lower back? The result is that you may subconsciously change your technique to compensate. In short, your risk of injury has gone through the roof. Listen to your body and take some rest.

4. Rest Can be Active

I have become far less opposed to total rest. However, cross training with some core, strength training, swimming or a long cycle are all possibilities. A break from running is important. Swimming and cycling limit the impact and strength training can help correct imbalances, creating muscles that can better cope with the demands of endurance sport.

The message. Happy training…but don’t forget to chill!