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Runner Tips

Why rest matters for runners

Runners laying on a track after the run
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Want to avoid feeling burnout and reach your goals more effectively? Brooks Beast head coach Danny Mackey explains why adequate rest is an essential part of Run Happy.

We know that the run has significant, positive effects on your whole body. It's good for your mind, heart, lungs, and of course, your legs and feet. If it’s so great for us, isn’t more running always better?

Without rest, runners will be unable to focus, anxious, and under-recovered, which is essentially a new term for overtrained. They could become frantic or disorganized, and there will be physical output but no peak effort.”

Danny Mackay Brooks Beast head coach

Simply put, the body and brain need a break to process the work they’ve done and to prepare for what's coming next. Without proper mental and physical rest, you risk physical injury, fatigue, anxiety, and more.

Two runners on a trail

But what, exactly, does rest mean?

When we talk about rest and running, we’re not just saying you need a good night’s sleep. Adequate sleep — usually 7 to 9 hours a night for adults and potentially an hour or two more than that for athletes — is essential to your overall health. Good sleep is key whether you run marathons or take short jaunts around the neighborhood.

According to Danny Mackey, head coach of the Brooks Beasts, rest is a designated time where there's a focus on recovery, resynthesis, and adaptation.

“Without rest, runners will be unable to focus, anxious, and under-recovered, which is essentially a new term for overtrained. They could become frantic or disorganized and there will be physical output but no peak effort. It’s almost like they're in a car driving uphill into the wind, flooring the gas, but can’t get to max speed. If that keeps going on they'll get sick or hurt,” he says.

A runner on a trail at sunset

Exercise is a good thing because it stresses your body beyond its normal homeostasis. Coach Mackey says the best way to reap the benefits from that stress is to take a break.

He explains that there are several things that happen to your body during rest:

  • Protein synthesis: Muscles can literally be rebuilt during rest.
  • Rehydration takes place: Your heart’s ability to pump blood through your body improves.
  • Your parasympathetic nervous system becomes more dominant: This helps calm all the other systems in your body.

All these activities communicate with your brain, and your brain waves will change for the better too.

Two runners sitting on a track

Coach Mackey’s rest tips for runners

Runners love to discuss how to improve their performance through training and exercise. We love the run so much that we often neglect rest and recovery in our plans. Don’t ignore your need for no speed. Check out Coach Mackey’s rest tips for runners below.

  • Consider a 1:1 ratio in terms of minutes. “If you run for an hour, rest and recover for an hour. It could be meditating, stretching, yoga, or really just chilling. We all have busy lives, but it’s important that rest and running go hand in hand. You need to think of it like a budget.”
  • Aim for low levels. “Think of rest in terms of heart rate, brain activity, and movement all at a level one or two out of 10. If you’re into gaming or you like to go out with friends and have a drink, those aren’t really restful activities. They’re probably fun and they’ll improve your mental health and make you happy, but stuff like that will raise your heart rate. You need low-effort activities.”
  • Be careful not to rest too much. “Think about how you feel when you sleep in for too long. You feel lethargic after you wake. Too much rest will negatively affect performance in the near term, and in the long term you’ll need to take some time to put yourself back into the correct rest-run rhythm.”
Two runners stretching

More training tips

Want to improve your run performance? It’s important to train your brain as well as your body. Get your fill of running knowledge with more training tips from the Run Happy Blog.