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Marathon Training Part 1: The Importance of Rest Days

Marathon Training Part 1: The Importance of Rest Days


The much anticipated Dublin Marathon is soon approaching with less than eight weeks to go, and this year the event has reached its maximum capacity and sold out! Since there are so many of you dedicated runners out there training for the marathon, we at the clinic thought it would be a good idea to put together a four-part series for the month of September. Each week we will focus on a different aspect of marathon training. Each providing useful information and tips compiled by myself and the clinics two sports specialists; David and Olive. The four-part series will address:

Part 1: The importance of Rest Days in Marathon Training

When training for a marathon, your schedule is not your own. As the weeks roll on and the marathon gets closer, free time becomes sparse. Between early morning runs that get longer with each passing week, cross training, strength training and longer weekend runs, incorporating rest days into your training plan is hugely important. Rest days help strengthen your body, sharpen your focus, and reinvigorate your spirit. Whether you’re a recreational runner or following a strict marathon training plan, there is value in taking one rest day every week.

One of the most important parts of exercising effectively, is giving our bodies time to recover and recuperate. Your body needs rest to become stronger and more resilient in the future. If you neglect recovery for too long, you’ll start to loose strength and speed. You will also slip into a black hole of overtraining, something which can be detrimental to your performance. Think about rest days as an important part of your marathon training. Rest days will only help you to improve your training quality and racing times. Embrace the day off as an integral part of your development and improvement as a runner. Rest days will positively help your body in the following ways:

Muscle Recovery –

When you run, or do any form of exercise, you create microscopic tears in your muscles. Your body responds by using nutrients and undergoing biological processes to repair and rebuild these muscles to be stronger. This process can only be done when your body is able to get rest. Without rest, the body doesn’t get a chance to strengthen the muscles and so over time they just continue to break down.

Injury Prevention –

Rest is crucial when it comes to avoiding injuries, especially when training for a marathon. Overuse injuries are commonplace among runners. The only way to avoid these aches and pains is to take a day to rest. Tendonitis is a perfect example of why your body needs rest. This is one of the most common running injuries and occurs as a result of overworked tendons.

Mental Performance –

From a psychological point of view, taking rest days can help prevent mental burnout. Mental fatigue can be every bit as damaging physical fatigue. By taking a break you will be able to recharge and rekindle your hunger for running.

Running Performance – 

Your body needs rest to adapt to the stress of training on your body. Without rest, your body won’t be able to build stamina and strength. This along with the above three factors, will affect your overall running performance in the long-run.

Yet even with these benefits, some runners find it difficult to take a complete day off. They fear their performance will suffer. However, research has shown how it takes two weeks of not working out for loss of fitness and performance to occur. Others who cannot take a full day off opt for an “easy run”. It’s important to note that there are issues with this, as reworking the same muscles increases your risk of injury and may turn a niggle into an overuse injury. If you cannot take a full rest day, it is recommended to instead do some cross training such as swimming or cycling, or else do some strength or core work. This will be much more beneficial to your training, giving your legs a break from the high impact pounding that running has on your joints.

The key lesson is to learn to listen to your body. Successful long-term training comes from learning how to read your body and understanding what it needs to train at its highest potential. Remember your body and its needs are different to those around you, your running buddy might not need a rest day as frequent as you and that’s ok.

Here at Ballsbridge Physiotherapy Clinic, we have a team of chartered physiotherapists to assist you if you with any running related concerns. Our sports specialists Dave and Olive are trained in treating a wide range of sports related injuries and in addition can offer assessments such as functional training to evaluate your training concerns. To book an appointment, please contact the clinic here.

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