Getting Sufficient Rest

Many runners believe that running makes them stronger. The actual truth in this matter is that running destroys body cells and makes the person weaker. The strength comes from the rest following a run. During this rest, the body reacts to the stress of the run and repairs the damaged cells, thus making the person stronger.

How Do I tell that I should Rest?

That depends on our personalities and life styles, but rest we must have if we are to remain injury-free. Most of us don't have a trainer who can tell us when to rest, but we all have something better than a trainer; we have our bodies! If we listen to our bodies, we'll know when we need more rest.

Here are some symptoms that I've experienced that tell me I need more rest.
  • My wakeup pulse rate is higher than normal. For example, my wakeup pulse is normally about 48. If it goes up to 54 or more, I know I'm tired and need more rest. When that happens, I might run a reduced distance and pace, or I might abort the run altogether.
  • I feel tired while I'm doing my sit-ups. I do 30 sit-ups before I run, and I usually do them fast and feel good while doing them. If I feel tired, I know I need more rest. This happened to me a few days ago. I felt tired during my sit-ups, and when I started running, I felt really tired. After about 1/3 mile, I aborted the run and walk-jogged home.
  • I feel extra tired during a run. Not the tiredness from physical activity, but tiredness from not having much energy. Tiredness like I'd been run over by a big truck. Tiredness like my "gas tank" is empty.
  • I do dumb things while driving, like going through a stop sign, or not being aware of other cars while I drive.
  • I come down with a cold. Colds can occur due to reasons not related to activity in sports. However, running, jogging, and walking can weaken our immune system and allow us to get colds if ones body isn't able to handle the stress from that activity. The two most important factors in running that induce colds are insufficient sleep and pushing to too high intensity in ones running.

OK, What do I Do to Get More Rest?

There are a few things we can do to get more rest.

  • Keep a consistent, regular sleeping schedule. Our bodies will tell us how much sleep we need each night. We need to control our life styles so we get sleep on a regular basis. In addition, afternoon naps help supplement our nightly sleep and give us additional rest.
  • Arranging our running, jogging, or walking so we have rest periods after heavy runs that put a lot of stress on our bodies. Dr. George Sheehan, who for a number of years was medical columnist for Runner's World, said our bodies need 48 hours to recover from a heavy run. Because of this, the running literature recommends that we run, jog, or walk in a heavy/light pattern. Do a heavy run that stresses our body and then a light run the next day that allows our body to rest. For me, a light run is about one-half the distance of a heavy run. Another way that we can reduce our running is to run less than seven days per week. I recommend that we have at least one day per week that is a complete rest from running. Also, I recommend that we have one rest-week each month, in which the running activity is reduced by 25-40%. But, we are all different, and you might use different methods to get rest.
  • Increase our distance and/or speed slowly so our bodies can adjust to the increased stress. The running literature recommends that we increase in 10% steps, with sufficient time between steps such that our bodies can adjust to the increased stress. The number 10% isn't a magic bullet. Some runners can handle more than 10% and others can only handle less than 10%.
  • Run, jog, or walk pain free. Pain is a signal from our bodies that we've exceeded the capacity of our bodies to handle stress. When we experience pain, we should reduce our training by reducing distance, speed, or the number of days we run (or combinations thereof) until we can run without pain. Then, as we run pain free, we can slowly increase our training to meet our goals.

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