Why Rest? Why Cross Train?

After last week of being sick I began to ask myself, when do I take a rest day.  Will I take a rest day if I’m very sick?  If I have a head cold?  If I’m sore?  If I’m achey?  If I have the flu?  If it’s raining or my garmin has died?  What qualifies in my mind (personally) as the need for a rest day?  I suppose this differs for everyone.  Some people can run on little sleep, without a garmin, without friends, in the 35 degree rain…some people can’t.  Some people are injury prone…some aren’t.

First I am probably the most paranoid person for injury.  Since I’m pretty clumsy and run the spectrum of injuries, stress fracture, knee problems, falling and breaking my arm on ice, getting hit by a cylist and remember that cyst that cut me out of training for 3 months?  Instead of linking to all those posts I’ll just link to my injury post.

Needless to say I am very injury prone.  Though my only real running injury came from improper training in 2011 (tibial stress fracture), I have had multiple other injuries from doing stupid things.  Like frolicking on ice and breaking my arm.

I love the Maury show and drama so you’re welcome.


I am very open with there have been a very workouts I wish I didn’t doI wish I had rested and honestly I felt no better afterwards.  The  entire duration of the workout I just felt sick, not feeling great and not feeling like I got anything accomplished but making myself worse.  This could just be me though but I’ve found “light cardio” does not help me if I feel sick.  Rest and recovery does.

Things that immediately qualify me to take a rest day:

  1. If I didn’t get enough sleep.  I don’t like to work out on minimal sleep and I have always felt terrible doing so.  I know there is a motivational poster that floats around on pinterest that says “the only workout you regret is the one you don’t do” I don’t agree.  I would almost always rather sleep in then get in a morning workout if I didn’t get 8 hours of sleep.  I do not function well on less.  (I suppose I’m a high maintenance sleeper).
  2. If I’m sick.  If I’m sick I normally feel like dirt to begin with and I normally didn’t sleep well the night before.  So I won’t have a productive run and I’ll be grumpy before, during and after.  So no working out for me.
  3. If I feel any sort of injury coming on.  If it’s a deep pain, a weird stretched muscle, something just feels weird I absolutely will not run on it.  It takes one stupid move to run on a small injury and bam stress fracture or some serious injury. I would know because it led to my stress fracture.  (which I can attest to poor training).  If it doesn’t feel better with a day or two of rest I will follow it up with a deep tissue massage and perhaps light cross training (if it doesn’t aggravate the injury).  Every single “niggle” I have had has been cured with this solution (so far so good).
  4. If I’m sore or my body is begging for a rest day.  I don’t plan rest days but normally once a week my body is saying “hey girl, let’s curl up on the couch and catch up on all those DVR shows you recorded”.  Then I oblige, watch tv and twitter all day long.

I think those are the biggest reasons I’ll take a rest day.  If I notice an injury I will sometime cross train or sometimes take a full rest day.  Either way I will not do anything that I feel is aggravating it.  Taking one rest day is not going to destroy your training like taking 2 months off because of an injury.

Here are some situations that I think it’s beneficial to do a light, short run or cross train.

  1. When you are sore.  If you can distinguish the feeling of soreness versus potential injury soreness I think a light run will do you wonders.  I read (somewhere ? I cannot find the article again) that doing a light run after a hard workout or race is beneficial.  I have always found that doing a shakeout run 6-8 hours post race allows blood flow and I normally feel a lot better than if I allow acid to fester there.  I will say I normally say that I have never regretted a shakeout run post race.  (obviously I did no shakeout after the marathon…lord knows I couldn’t move).
  2. If I am feeling lazy.  Sometimes it’s cold, rainy or miserable and I’m honestly not in the mood to run in the slightest.  After making every excuse I can come up with and knowing I’ll probably be miserable running…I settle for some cross training.  I wish I could tell you I push through laziness and run every time I’m not feeling it, but I don’t.  I cross train 75% of the time but once I’ve made up my mind not to run I normally don’t turn back.

So those are my personal rules and thoughts of whether I will run or cross train or rest.  It is much easier for me since I am uncoached and don’t follow a specific plan.  That is one reason I do enjoy being uncoached (I guess) is that if I’m generally tired, sick, ect I do have the option to take off.  I am absolutely sure a coach would allow me to take off if I was sick or wasn’t feeling well but I have found it easier this way.

Finally, as you all know I entered a contest by ZOOMA to win an entry for myself and a reader to the Napa Race they are hosting.  The credentials include being  an “inspirational blogger” and living a healthy lifestyle.   One of my dreams is to run a race on the West Coast so I would really appreciate it if you were able to vote for me.  You can vote every day.  Thank you again for your support throughout my running and blogging journey.  I’ll probably be posting this daily because you can vote daily.  I am a bit sorry if it get’s obnoxious but I really really want to win.  I even created a little photo of me on the side.  Now you can stare at my face smiling and running for the next month.  So please help make my dream come true and vote daily.  🙂


Question for you: What determines if you will  cross train or rest?  


  1. I think you make good points. I usually won’t workout if I am feeling sick/achy. I haven’t worked out all week because I’ve been feeling under the weather and don’t have the energy to get through my workouts. Although, if I’m just being lazy then I will make myself workout because I know that I will feel better once I am done.

  2. I think the smartest runners are the ones that know how to rest and recover. It is so silly to see people killing themselves over these days of working out when in reality they just don’t need them!

  3. I completely agree with most of your personal rules, although I do find that if I force myself to get up and workout even if I’m tired, I’ll feel better. Not every tired day it works, but I rarely can get 8 hours, so if I waited for an 8 hour night, I’d never run!

    1. That is awesome you are able to get out of bed. I know I’m a high maintenance sleeper and cannot do that but power to you. You are inspiring me to not be such a baby!

  4. Right now I am injured, so I am not supposed to run at all! BUT when I am in my “normal” training, I only run about 4 days a week. The other days are automatic lifting and cross training. If I take a day of complete rest, it is a scheduled one. My goal for 2014 is to take one rest day a week. I must schedule them right now or I won’t do it. And I don’t think my body NEEDS one once a week, so it’s not like it is dying for the day. Another reason I must schedule. But so far I haven’t missed any rest days! Wahoo!

  5. I’m very injury prone, as I’m realizing, and running on something that doesn’t hurt but also doesn’t feel right is not going to help me. I’ve always planned rest days or cross training days because I’ve never really not been in season following a strict training plan, but that is something I will be changing this year. I think my body operates better running 4-5 days a week with cross training instead of running a bunch of days in a row like I might want to do sometimes. It all comes down to what works for each persons body I guess which sounds cliche but in some cases can be true.

  6. This is one I’m still trying to figure out shockingly enough ha. I usually still run whether I’ve gotten a good night’s sleep or not or if I have a cold or something, and I think that’s one of the biggest things I need to work on. I know I always feel better after a good night’s sleep and forcing a run rather than that extra hour or so has left me miserable the rest of the day from being so tired. And then the cycle starts where I never get enough sleep, constantly feel like I need to catch up and I’m a hot mess. I think if I can let myself become more flexible with when I run that will help. If I don’t get enough sleep to go in the morning but can get an extra hour to help, there’s no reason I can’t go after work or something. Just need to shake the morning runner mentality and get it in when I can do it best.

  7. I am suuuper stubborn and will run through most things. Hangover, aches, pains, crappy weather. That’s totally not a good thing. I’ve been dealing with some shin problems lately and my physio uttered the “stress fracture” possibility (although it definitely feels more like the muscle than the bone, but this probably will end in a SF if I’m not careful) to me yesterday which freaked me out. I hate missing a run, but I hate the thought of a fracture more.
    Thanks for the reminder that I need to step back and heal up before anything gets worse.

  8. I swore I was the only one who took off for sickness. Everyone quotes that above the neck thing but I have to take at least 2 days off, I just cannot do it with stuffy head and inability to breathe or swallow. I think running through it makes it last twice as long.

  9. I’m on my fourth rest day this week, and while I hate it, I more hate the idea of this sickness lasting any more than it should because I’m too stubborn and keep working out! For me, it’s about rest helping me become the runner I want to be, but it took a huge mind shift to get there!

  10. Well this is a new one! I don’t think I’ve seen a similar post in my 4 years of blog reading! =)
    I can also say, I have similar parameters for myself, and it made me feel SO great to hear an even better/speedier run feels the same way. =) I need at least 7 hours of sleep, it is what it is. I just can’t always force myself up when I am tired, but in the same vein, I HATE afternoon runs, so if it doesn’t happen in the morning, it is highly unlikely to happen. That is the only other thing that gets me going! And I always like to have at least 1 rest day per week. If I am feeling froggy, I’ll do yoga or swim.

    And totally cool entry! I voted for you. Good luck. That’d be a really cool thing to win!

  11. I acquired a twinge in my left knee on Sunday and saw a nurse practitioner yesterday. No definitive diagnosis, but she did tell me no running for the next 7-10 days. I know I need to take care of this, I also know I have a slew of races coming up and I’m training for Boston.
    She didn’t schedule me for surgery, so I guess I should be happy. But no running for atleast a week is gonna suck! I’ve never has knee problems before and I’m a little concerned.

  12. My knee right now determines it all! I typically don’t like to rest more than one day in a row. I tend to take 2ish a week? And it is heavily based on my schedule and my knee. If the knee is being dumb (aka the last 3 weeks) I cross train. If I am sore I will force myself to do something to get the blood moving! Also having Sasha is great because it gets me up and walking around even when all my muscles hurt!

  13. Love this. My biggest issue with rest days is being honest in saying “I need this” vs “I’m lazy” lol

  14. I am definitely a high maintenance sleeper. I need 8 hours during the week and usually get at least one 10 hour night on the weekends. I’m not remotely sorry for it. For that reason, I am NOT a morning runner. Wake up at 5am?! Not a freaking chance.
    It sounds like we have similar approaches to rest days and taking a day off.
    I’ve also slipped on the ice and broken my arm. My elbow to be exact. It’s now held together with pins and wires. Whoops.

    1. Ange when I got hit by a bicyclist I fell on my elbow and at first I panicked and thought I would need (I’m pretty sure) that same procedure. I broke my upper arm (close to my shoulder) on ice. Breaking your arm is so painful.

      Anyways I’m glad to hear you are okay now!

  15. I have a “planned” rest day on Wednesday due to scheduling and life getting in the way. However, if my normal Wednesday night plans are cancelled, I will often opt to work out. Especially if I’ve taken an unplanned rest day (or two).

    But, I also listen to my body. I’ve incorporated a lot more cross-training, because my hip is bothering me after long runs (tight hip flexors and abductors). I’ve also incorporated a lot more “active rest” days into my life…where I’m not necessarily running or cross-training, but I’m spending significant time foam rolling, using resistance bands, doing some dynamic and static stretching. Those active rest days are a lifesaver.

    Side note – I’m a bit accident prone too. I once had to take a good solid 6 weeks of running or walking because of a broken little toe! I was stuck on a bike or in the pool that entire time.

    1. Oh my gosh, I bet that was super painful. I got a blister on my pinkie toe at one point and I never realized (until then) how painful it actually was.

      I’m glad you are feeling better too. Lord, I cannot imagine getting back into the pool right now. I do not miss those days. I actually was looking through an old facebook photo of us the other day funny enough!

  16. It’s definitely not just you. I’ve never been able to understand how people exercise when they feel something like a cold coming on — all I want to do in that situation is plant myself on the couch and not move for the entire day. The same goes with a bad sleep. I’ve had plenty of bad workouts that came as a result of me pushing myself when I know I should have taken a day off, and the worst part of it is that they kind of mess with you and make you less likely to look forward to future workouts. Or maybe that’s just me…

  17. I don’t know why some people hate rest days so much. I love them, live for them, dream about them! Knowing I have a rest day coming up usually helps me push harder on that last tempo run or get me out of bed at 4:30 in the morning. And some days, I just want to go home and sit on the couch and snuggle with the kids taking an unplanned rest day instead of going to the gym for an hour. Guess that just means I’m not hard core. I’ll survive.

  18. I just finished the Dopey Challenge and in the training I had scheduled rest days and cross training days. I didn’t really think about it after it was planned, I just did it without question – I did take a few extra days off when I tweaked my knee tho.

  19. I 100% agree if I’m feeling lazy an easy workout is great- usually it turns into a hard workout or if not, at least it was something. Over Thanksgiving I had to work and was being super lazy and decided to watch something on Netflix, but decided to make myself walk on the treadmill while watching (it was a short movie) and I ended up running 7 miles and did not regret it one bit. But I also agree on the sleep thing, I need my sleep and know I will half-ass my run if I’m exhausted.

  20. I really like your reasoning for taking a rest day and doing so- something which I’ve been battling with the last couple of weeks regarding working out. I’ve actually found myself to be in a better frame of mind and feeling better overall after light workouts (toning down the weights, steady cardio).

    1. That is awesome Arman! I’m glad you have found what is best for you…I know a lot of people enjoy light work outs when tired, ect but it hinders me…I wish it didn’t though ha.

  21. I always cross train since I run triathlons mostly. But I’ve always been a runner long before I ever made the jump to triathlon. I intentionally have two rest days on my training schedule. If I don’t take a rest day here or there I get cranky and start to break down physically and mentally. Although, not by design, I have managed to somehow swindle myself three rest days the last two weeks. I need to get my booty moving more!

    Love this, very informative!

    1. Thank you so much Courtney and thank you for stopping by. 🙂

      I’ve heard a lot about triathlon training and the doing so many different workouts. I just cannot get into biking!

  22. I’d have to say mine are pretty similar! I always tell myself “go for 5 minutes and if you feel like crap you can come home” and I usually end up feeling better once I start.

  23. I can literally not function on less than 8 hours of sleep. Once I tried to get out my car while it was still in drive because I was so tired. I end up doing a lot of runs in the evening so I can sleep more in the morning. When I used to swim I would NEVER miss practice but now if I’m sick or too tired I’ll take a day off or do an easier workout that’s non-impact.

    1. Finally someone that understands! I seriously do not have understand how people can run on such little sleep. I know sometimes it’s not feasible in certain people’s lifestyles but I get tired so easily…I have too!

  24. I won’t even get into my whole training regimen. I will say that I think it’s great to rest when you are sick, especially if it has effected your lungs/chest. I did a long run in March 2012, when I was just getting over a respiratory type cold, and I ended up regressing, and being sick for 10 more days. It sucked and so did the long run, no benefit whatsoever.

    Feel better!

  25. Love love LOVE This post!!!! FINALLY someone who agrees that there are times when you just shouldn’t work out. The world needs more of you, Hollie 🙂

  26. Glad to hear I’m not the only “high maintenance” sleeper–in bed at 8:30 p.m. and up at 4:30 a.m. 🙂 Technically, I *can* function on less, but my workouts really suffer if I don’t get seven.

  27. After reading one of Dean Karnazes books (I know, I know) where he says he ALWAYS runs a few miles after a big feat to shake out his muscles and release the lactic acid, I began doing so after hard/long runs. Now I live by that rule! I feel worlds better after a hard run if I go for an easy run the next day versus taking the day off or cross training!

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