Are you preparing for your first major half marathon or marathon? If so, you might be overwhelmed by the training schedules and expert advice around when to rest and when to train for peak performance.
True resting recovery days and active recovery days are integral components to a well-rounded and successful training plan for runners and other athletes.
If you’re not sure what these things mean and when you need to take them, you’re in the right place. Keep reading to learn more about why resting and active recovery should be essential parts of your training plan and how to use them to optimize performance and results.
What is a resting recovery day during your training schedule?
A recovery or rest day in your training schedule is a day in which you do not train at all. On these days, you take a break from your programming or training schedule and focus on letting your body repair.
For most runners, it is recommended that you take 1 full resting recovery day per week unless otherwise indicated.
What is an active recovery day during your training schedule?
An active recovery day is a day where you take a break from your regular intense training schedule, but you do a lower intensity or mobility workout in its place.
Active recovery days are a great chance to move your body in a different way, improve your flexibility, and also give your body a break from a rigorous training schedule.
1-2 active recovery days per week is a great way to balance your training, keep your body moving, and allow for the best performance.
What are active recovery drills that runners should participate in?
The best active recovery drills for runners are low-impact activities like walking, swimming, yoga, jogging, or biking.
These are all great options because they will encourage you to use your body in a different way than running does. Another great thing about active recovery is that by moving your body, even at a lower exertion level, you will most likely combat some muscle soreness and fatigue.
Related: What Is A Recovery Run?
What RPE (rate of perceived exertion) should active recovery drills take place at?
The ideal RPE for active recovery drills should be between 7-10 on the Borg RPE scale or 2-4 on the Modified RPE scale. Active recovery should be low impact, which is why it’s important to keep your RPE on the lower end of the range.
What is the difference between the Borg and Modified RPE scales?
The Borg RPE scale measures exertion on a scale of 6-20. The reason for this range is because if you multiply the RPE by 10, you can get an estimate of what your heart rate should be for that activity level.
The Modified RPE scale is measured 0-10, which is easier to understand for many people. This scale focuses on the breath with 0 being normal breathing and 10 being so out of breath you are unable to carry on a conversation.
Is it ok to skip resting recovery days prescribed by your training schedule or coach?
No. Recovery or rest days are as important to your training program as training days. In order to perform well, your body needs to rest. These days are crucial to allowing your body to repair itself after the hard work you do while training.
Even if you are training for a very intense race, competition, or another fitness event, there is never a reason to skip a rest day. Any responsible, educated trainer or coach would never advise you to do so.
There are far too many risks associated with not allowing your body to properly recover. Contrary to popular belief, taking full resting recovery days when appropriate will typically improve your overall athletic performance.
What happens if you skip resting recovery days?
If you skip a recovery day, you are putting both your physical and mental health at risk. Here are just a few potential side effects of skipping a much-needed rest day during your training.
What are the biggest differences between active recovery and resting recovery?
The biggest difference between active recovery and resting recovery is that on an active recovery day, you still do some form of workout or light movement whereas on a resting recovery day you do not participate in any activity.
On an active recovery day, you are focusing on moving your body in a lower impact, mobility-focused, and intentional way. These days should be a decrease in intensity from your usual training days.
The goal of active recovery is to use your muscles differently, stretch, and keep your body moving to avoid injury.
On a resting recovery day, you do not do any type of fitness activity. These days are truly intended for you to rest and recharge your body. By purposely not exerting yourself on these days, you allow your body to recover properly and improve your overall performance.
Although you may be tempted to skip a resting recovery day, they are crucial to your progress and overall health. Allowing your body to fully rest is so important to preventing injuries, mental burnout, and so much more.
Is it ok to take a resting recovery day the day before a major race such as a half marathon or marathon?
To prepare your body for a major race like a half marathon or marathon, it is recommended that you do not take a resting recovery day the day before.
Although you may be tempted to want to rest the day before in preparation for the race, research shows that the best preparation is actually to run the day before any major race. You can keep your run shorter than your usual distance, but it’s still best to get out there and move.
The goal is simply to keep your body moving and performing at its’ peak.
Your neuromuscular system (the interconnected system of muscles and nerves in your body) requires constant conditioning and even just a day or two off from a strict running regimen can affect your performance in a major race event.