Why Rest and Running Go Together

Rest from running is essential to performing at your best.

Michael Horner
Jul 5, 2020 · 5 min read
There is value in a rest day. Photo by Angelina Kichukova on Unsplash

The We Belong Virtual Running Series put on by Human Potential Running Series race director, Sherpa John LaCroix, was a welcome distraction as races were getting cancelled seemingly every day.

My favorite lesson in all of these is turning out to be one that maybe I should have listened to a little bit more closely. The lesson was on incorporating rest days into your ultra-running training plan.

I’ll never forget Sherpa John repeating over and over, “A rest day is zero f’ing miles!” loudly, repeatedly.

Much like many lessons that I have had to learn the hard way, this lesson, as passionately delivered as it was, went in one ear and out the other and now I am learning the hard way why it is important to make sure that your rest days equal zero f’ing miles.

It all started with a recent move from the dry, mountain climate of Bighorn Mountain Wyoming to the dry, jungle-like climate of Virginia Beach, Virginia.

In April when we moved, it was perfect running weather. Mid-50’s to upper 60’s, occasional rainstorm but gorgeous days to get out and get training miles in. In April, I ran over 200 miles with early morning runs of 6–8 miles and then another run in the evening. My weekend runs were all over 20 miles on Saturday and another 8–10 miles on Sunday.

At the end of May, I signed up for the We Belong Virtual Series, as well as this crazy Lazarus Lake creation, called the Great Virtual Run Across Tennessee. The We Belong series culminated with a virtual 12-hour “race” where I managed almost 40 miles over a weekend that turned out hot and humid.

Because I knew that July and August were going to be extremely hot and humid in Virginia Beach, I decided that I would complete the 1,022 kilometers (635 miles) for the Great Virtual Race Across Tennessee with a goal completion date of my birthday on July 3.

Thus my problems began. As the weather became warmer and more humid, I kept running mad miles, day after day. Completely forgetting my 100-mile training plan, I ran every single day.

I discovered something. My body doesn’t like humidity and running for hours on end. I would get back from my runs and felt great about my mileage and pace but my skin was not happy.

Little heat rash bumps began to break out in my armpits and groin area. I basically ignored these little signs of something greater going on in my body and as I completed the #GVRAT on June 26, I found myself with blisters instead of just heat rash bumps. My heat rash had progressed to a condition known as candida, or more basically a yeast infection.

Severe in my case enough that I am now taking yeast infection medicine as well as a corticosteroid that is really messing with my body.

If only I had listened to Sherpa John.

A runner’s rest day. Photo by Eduardo Flores on Unsplash

My body felt great, no sore muscles and I was feeling stronger than ever before. I never stopped to consider that running for hours in dripping wet clothing as the weather got hotter and more humid could result in something worse.

When we run our bodies are building stamina and strength, all good. We are also breaking our bodies down, with tiny amounts of tissue damage. Add in heat and humidity and you increase thermal strain and fatigue.

Regular rest days allow our bodies to recuperate. Devising a better strategy to deal with the heat and humidity to allow your body to adapt to this strange, new phenomenon.

Combining regular rest days with a wise strategy will help you not end up where I am. Having to take a number of days off to allow your body to heal isn’t ideal, but that is where you are going to end up if you don’t pay attention to the signs.

An article in Runners World says it better than I ever could. “In other words, rest right, and you’ll run faster and be healthier. Skip it, and you might be forced to take time off due to an injury.” 6 Reasons Why Rest Days Can Actually Help You Run Stronger

Rest day schedule. Photo by Eric Rothermel on Unsplash

For those of you who may be just a wee bit intense like me, these are strategies that you would think I would have incorporated into my running and fitness regimen ten years ago when I started running.

However, better late than never is one of my mottoes, so these are the strategies I am incorporating to encourage me to trust the rest day is beneficial for my overall fitness plans.

  1. Involve your family into a healthy rest day routine. Go walking together, cook your significant other dinner, plan a movie night, or just work around the house together.
  2. Schedule and prepare for your rest days just like you schedule and prepare for a six to ten hour run on a mountain trail. Let your running partners and your significant other know which days you are taking rest days so they can hold you accountable.
  3. Protect and honor these days no matter how cool a run sounds that your friends are planning. There are also days where your training plan on a Saturday may only be 12 miles, but your friends are going off on a cool 20–30-mile run. Don’t do it. Protect and honor your days.

Bonus tips I am learning from talking to people that have successfully transitioned from running in dry climate to a wet climate.

  1. Think about what you are putting on your skin. In dry climates, vaseline works just fine to prevent chafing. In wet climates, that same thing is actually blocking your skin from breathing. If your skin can’t breathe, your sweat pores get blocked and that is when your body reacts the way mine has. This includes lotions and soaps. Unscented with as little oil as possible will be your friend.
  2. Consider changing your running schedule. In Wyoming, my bulk training miles came June through August. Mainly this was because it was the three months of the year I could get on a trail without having to deal with hip-deep snow. In a wet climate, I am learning that my bulk training months should be December through March with June through August being maintaining miles. This will also affect the races I sign up for.
  3. It’s okay to run inside on a treadmill during the hottest and most humid months in a wet climate. Nobody is going to think you are a wuss and make fun of you.

The biggest advice I can give you from my recent experience is to stop before it is too late to make a change. Listen to your body, take care of your body and you will experience the Joy of Running.

Runner's Life

Runner's Life is a publication for advice and stories from…

Michael Horner

Written by

From deep depression and overweight in 2010 to multiple ultra-marathon finishes. Writes about living a full life & running. https://linktr.ee/LivingAnUltraLife

Runner's Life

Runner's Life is a publication for advice and stories from the intersection of running and life. By runners, for runners.

Michael Horner

Written by

From deep depression and overweight in 2010 to multiple ultra-marathon finishes. Writes about living a full life & running. https://linktr.ee/LivingAnUltraLife

Runner's Life

Runner's Life is a publication for advice and stories from the intersection of running and life. By runners, for runners.

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