Rest Must Be Prioritized By All Long-Distance Runners

 In Hemingway 5K Sunset Run & Paddle Board Race, Key West Half Marathon, News

By: Sara Zipf – sara.zipf@skagenmail.com

Experts say that long-distance runners should take between 2 and 3 rest days every week. This is the advice that the 4000 annual Key West Marathon runners and 1.1 million total yearly marathon runners are advised to take. Some people are under the impression that practice makes perfect. But to ensure you successfully complete the marathon or long-distance run you’ve signed up for, you must prioritize rest.

Let your muscles recover

Long-distance running works your glutes, quads, hip flexors, hamstrings, abdominal, and calf muscles hard. Running puts a lot of stress on these muscles and this causes micro tears. When you rest, your body sends blood and good nutrition to the damaged muscles to repair them. Micro tears might sound like a bad thing, but when they’re repaired, your muscles become stronger. This is why it’s so important to give your body plenty of rest and time to heal. If you fail to let these micro tears repair by resting your body, you risk the muscles breaking down and permanent damage occurring.

Prevent injuries

Injuries are common among long-distance runners, with 45% getting an injury that stops them from running for several months. The most common body parts that runners injure are the knee, lower leg, foot, and thigh. Repetitive stress or ‘overuse’ is the main reason why these injuries happen. By ensuring proper rest between training sessions, you give your body the chance to heal, regenerate, and get stronger. In the long run, this will make you a better long-distance runner and will lower your chances of getting injured due to overusing your muscles.

Better sleep habits

Research has found a direct link between running and poor sleep. One study found that runners need 8.3 hours of sleep, but averaged just 6.7 hours. Whereas, another study reported that sports participants typically have sleep difficulties in the 4 days leading up to a race. Not getting enough shuteye can contribute to a range of problems, including low testosterone levels. Testosterone is found in both men and women and when levels are low, you may feel depressed, have little energy, and put on fat. None of this will help you complete a marathon or long-distance run, so you need to ensure you take enough rest days and optimize your sleep environment. Getting comfortable bedding, reducing your blue light exposure in the evening, keeping the room temperature comfortable, and practicing relaxation techniques all help.

A healthy balance

Running too much can lead to an exercise addiction – something that 3% of the population has. It’s important not to let long-distance running take over your life or obsess about it. When you rest, you give your body and your mind a break and can focus on other things. As a result, you’ll have a good balance between training and recovery. If you fail to stop and rest as suggested and have an addictive approach to long-distance running you’re more likely to get an injury, according to a study of 246 runners. Not only will the risk of injury be reduced with this balance, but you’re also more likely to sustain and improve your performance and progress.

Reducing mental fatigue

Prolonged running increases fatigue due to the way the noradrenergic neurotransmitter system works. If you’re constantly training, you’re also likely to get mentally fatigued as the constant mental focus, concentration, discipline, and keeping a check on your running time can take its toll on your mind. The risk of this is that you lose motivation and enjoyment for long-distance running. Resting regularly will ensure you don’t experience these issues as you’ll be able to mentally recharge and put running and beating your PB out of your mind. When your mind is refreshed, you’re more likely to feel positive about long-distance running and be more focused when you put your running sneakers back on.

Rest is one of the most important parts of long-distance running. Sufficient rest protects your body and gives it time to heal, while your mind will benefit from the downtime too. So, if you’re in the middle of training for a long-distance run or marathon, make sure you factor rest into your training schedule.

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