Get access to everything we publish when you sign up for Outside+.
My friend Sarah wrote a blog post recently that made me think a lot about what “type” of runner I am. She noted that there are runners who hate rest days and runners who love rest days. Sarah is one of the latter. Of course, we all run for different reasons, and it makes sense that those reasons are why you run impact whether or not you love rest days, hate them, or fall somewhere in between.
Those who run to relieve stress and anxiety may not feel “right” without a run. It takes the edge off and helps us work through hard times. A run seems like the perfect hour to ourselves away from the other people and things we have to worry about. Some run for weight loss, fitness, or health reasons. If they don’t cross train or enjoy other forms of exercise, not running might induce anxiety. Still others love the social aspect of running – the friends, the races, the whole community – but don’t necessarily want to pound out the miles by themselves on the treadmill. To be honest, I understand all of those perspectives.
I personally fall somewhere in the middle. I’m definitely not the type of person who would say that I “need” to run at the moment. There have been very stressful times during my life when that would have been true, but not right now. I do run to stay in shape and for fitness; truthfully, it’s one of the few forms of exercise I actually enjoy. And I’ll admit that I get worried about what I’m eating if I’m not running much or if I’m taking a rest day, even though I know it’s good for me. I wish I wasn’t that way, but I am. I love the community aspect of running. The best part about running for me is the friends and great memories I’ve made along the way. As such, it’s harder for me to get motivated to head out the door on my own.
Since my back worsened and I had surgery, I have had to come to terms with the fact that running every day like I used to is simply not an option. I’ve had to substitute other activities to stay busy and healthy. And although I went a little (fine, a lot) crazy at first when I couldn’t get out on the roads, I’ve learned to embrace the other forms of fitness – and yes, even the rest days – that are now keeping me healthy.
Everyone has different physical and mental needs, and there’s no right or wrong answer to how many rest days you should or shouldn’t take (at least, I don’t think there is). As long as you’re happy, healthy, and having fun, that’s what matters. I’m happy to be that kind of runner.