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Why You Should Take a Running Rest Week

Cutback week…

Down Week…

Less Running…

Essentially all phrases that mean, not running and taking a running rest week…Why You Should Take a Rest WeekIt seems counter-intuitive to take a week to back off mileage, intensity, and speed.  So why do it at all? 

Reducing your training for a week can help keep overuse injuries away.  Rest weeks allow your body to repair damaged muscles but also allow your mental state to rebuild.

As runners, we often want to run as fast and as long as possible.  We want our mileage to be consistently high, and we want to be at our best all of the time. I’ve been there and paid the price in my early twenties. I had multiple injuries (including stress fractures) from running too fast, not enough easy days, or not taking enough rest and recovery days.

Rest, down weeks and taper, can be the hardest weeks to incorporate into training.

When Should You Take a Running Rest Week? 

Like there is a different shoe for every runner, there is a different “right time” to take a cutback week for every runner.  Generally, every 4-6 weeks, athletes should take time a week of decreased mileage and intensity.

How Much Should You Cut Back?

Again, there is no right or wrong answer.  Most recovery weeks cut back anywhere between 25-50% of weekly mileage or 50-90% of the highest mileage weeks. There are some rest weeks, I might reduce the number of days per week I run. Other runs, I cut the miles per week. Usually, I spend a week doing mostly easy runs or maybe even some short cross-training. Either way,  I run less and take more rest and recovery.

This is essential during marathon training or big races. If you follow a training plan or have a running coach, you should make sure it includes recovery weeks.

How Can Rest Weeks Prevent Mental Burnout?

Let’s face it, at some point, most runners “burn out.”  My burnout came shortly before I got injured.  I tried to push through it, but looking back, my body was telling me to rest.  I should have rested both physically and mentally. Taking a rest week can take more mental strength than speed workout or long run. We want to return to running or run every day. We want to run fast! We want to improve our vo2 max. But, the rest and recovery are what helps us reach our goals.

Taking a rest week allows yourself to “miss running” and to rebuild the confidence you once had.

Bottom Line:

Any runner, elite or not, can benefit from taking a rest week or running break  It will help recover mentally, physically, and emotionally.  You aren’t going to lose fitness from taking a step back from running for a week.  In fact, you are going to recover and gain fitness.

Finally, have you subscribed to the LOLZletter? It’s a free newsletter that comes out each Monday. In the newsletter, I share running industry trends and things relevant to the sport. 

Question for you: 

Do you take recovery weeks or running breaks?

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21 responses

  1. I do one recovery week per month and couldn’t agree more to the mental aspect you mention. Don’t think without them I’d still love running as much.

  2. Well written, my runners burn out came around June 1st. I like to take break cause my body feels tired and I am mentally drained.
    Also I found out I have a medial muliscas tear in my left knee. So I have been out of running, for 2 months.
    After any break I feel refreshed.
    I should be back to running mid October after my physical therapy.

  3. I think this is one of the hardest things for me as a runner. Especially when I’m not injured or anything. But it is super important to have a few days off now and then.

    I try to take 2 days a week off on my regular running schedule in the first place and then after a race, I usually take an extra day or two to recover.

  4. It seems like it should be easy, but it’s not. I have just recently incorporated a rest day into my week. I think it is more mental than physical. You get accustomed to running 3-4 days a week and cutting back seems like you are cheating yourself. I really like the idea of taking a week off. Actually doing it will be the trick.

  5. Great post. I’ve always guilted about taking a rest week—and it led to me burning out late in the season for cycling. Definitely want to avoid that with running. This is a good reminder that a rest week is super important.

  6. I definitely find myself burning out if I don’t cut back a bit. It’s really important and it can be harder mentally than running more. I think for me it happens naturally. Some weeks i Just run more than others and it seems to balance out, but I definitely have learned to back way off when necessary.

  7. Yes! Running requires rest. It’s so important but it takes runners a long time to realize the true benefit sometimes. I know I use to pushed, pushed, pushed until my legs were like sandbags. After a dental procedure that forced me to take three days off, I came back with one of the greatest runs I can remember. After that I made sure to take those rest days seriously. I need to focus more on rest “weeks” now as you suggest! Thanks for posting!

  8. I’m not currently training for anything, but I have cut back on running a bit lately because I have been feeling a bit run down. Focusing more on strength training at the moment with a little running. Have a great weekend!

  9. Yes I’m all about the cut back weeks! I’m currently doing one right now while on vacation (planned that way!) and I am SO ready to get back to hard training after a week of low key and low mileage training.

  10. As I have gotten a lilttle older I have realized how important cut back weeks are in training. I used cut back weeks every third week in marathon training and it worked great + time off after a big race = a must for me!

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