As Nietzsche, and more recently, Kelly Clarkson have told us, "What doesn't kill you makes you stronger." While this conviction has helped me power through the last six miles of a marathon, it can lead to injury if it becomes your training mantra. Beware of the toos: too fast, too often, too much, too soon.
The Power of Rest Days
Here's how training works in a nutshell. You break your body down through rigorous workouts and force it to adapt by rebuilding itself into a stronger machine. To rebuild your body into a stronger version of itself you need to feed it, care for it, and let it rest. Most of the good stuff happens while you are happily drooling on your pillow in the middle of the night.
If you don't rest enough, your body can't adapt. Soon, you'll get caught in a downward spiral of tough workouts, poor race times, fatigue, and grouchiness. If you've trained hard in the past, you know there's a razor-thin line between smart training and overtraining.
5 Signs That You've Earned a Rest Day
Increased Resting Heart Rate -- Monitor your waking heart rate. An increase over time can indicate that you're overtraining or dealing with an unusual amount of stress.
General Fatigue -- If you feel like you're moving under water and it's tough just getting through the day, you may be doing too much. Often times, you'll find yourself fighting a cold or just feeling "under the weather."
Trouble Sleeping -- If you are training too much it can disrupt your circadian rhythm and make sleeping through the night impossible. If you find yourself waking up more than usual and having difficulty sleeping it could be a sign that you need to take it down a notch.
Moodiness -- Are you overreacting to little things? Snapping at your family members? Feeling depressed about your running? It might be a side effect from pushing yourself too hard. Find your happy place.
Lingering Muscle Soreness -- If you run hard, you're going to hurt. That's expected and it's totally OK. What's not OK is lingering soreness in one spot that is persistent or worsens over time. That points to possible injury.
If this describes the way you've felt lately, it may be time to take a break for a week or two and let your body catch up. Focus on eating well, sleeping well, and continue to stretch or foam roll as you normally would to maintain good muscular health. A little "prehab" outweighs rehab any day.
For more on the running life, visit Saltmarsh Running.