Rest vs Recovery Days

Ever wonder what the difference between “rest” and “recovery” days is?

If so, wonder no more! Coach Claire reveals in today’s daily podcast.

Audio Transcript

Coach Claire Bartholic: Hi everyone. I’ve been having a great time, as I always do, answering your questions, helping you run faster and train smarter.

Today’s episode is brought to you ad free and the question comes from Rick.

Rick: I’m just looking for some insight on the concept of a rest day (no running) versus a recovery day (a light jog).

I have read in many places that having a full day off, of no running is key to realize maximum gains particularly for older runners. I’m 43 years old.

However, I have read in other places that simply slowing it down considerably is just as good. I’m trying to get my mileage to this 60-70 miles per week range and I don’t know how I could do that if I was to take a day or two completely off. Thanks.

Claire: This is such an important question Rick and it’s not just for older runners. All runners need to figure out how many days to run, how to best recover, and when to take a day completely off.

And like many things in running and in life, there is no one right answer or wrong answer, but let’s see if we can break this down into pieces so we can solve this puzzle for you.

There are a lot of benefits to running every single day if 80% of your runs are very easy and gentle.

The first one is that if you run every day, it becomes a habit. Just like brushing your teeth, if you run every single day, it becomes a non-negotiable part of your life and consistency is what makes the biggest impact on your training.

The next reason is you can spread your mileage out across the week, more evenly, and don’t have to run huge miles every time you run in order to get a substantial amount of miles in. The longer you run the more your return on your running investment diminishes.

Your form starts to break down as you tire, and all those positive adaptations that occur in your body only occur up to a certain point every run. In other words, once you run outside the 60-90-minute window or so, the amount of fitness to be gained from the run starts to decline.

If you plan to run, let’s say ten hours a week, it’s much better to spread that out over 6 or 7 days rather than run 2 hours a day for 5 days.

What are the disadvantages to running every day? First, you have to run every day. This can be hard on the rest of your life if you are constantly trying to juggle running with a typically busy schedule.

You might have to sacrifice other things you enjoy like other activities, time with family or friends, just to get in your daily miles.

For many people running day in and day out add stress to their daily lives instead of improving it. This is the flip side of habit forming. When you create good or bad habits, they can start to become rigid rules that you feel you have to follow no matter what.

Your daily run has to happen because that becomes a part of your identity even if you’re sore, sick, or life gets in the way, with type A runners, this tendency tends to come up a lot. Take a good look at your approach and make sure that you still have room to be flexible.

Now we come to injuries. Does running every day make you more susceptible to injuries especially as you age? The answer is absolutely yes for some people and no for others.

If you’re an injury prone runner, running every day might not be right for you. Running is high impact and no matter how slowly and gently you might happen to run; daily running is just not for everyone.

That doesn’t mean that you need to take a day off your training lying on the couch, watching Netflix all day.

Staying active on your non-running days by doing a low impact activity, can boost your aerobic fitness just as much as an easy run without nearly as much risk for injury.

Even if you are not a runner, every person on the planet should strive to be active every day. Countless studies have shown how beneficial daily exercise is for our health. Be sure to find across training activity that you enjoy.

It could be walking, biking, hiking, you name it. As long as it gets your blood moving without making you too tired to run well the next day, it’s all good. You are adding to your fitness without even running a single step.

Cross training also helps spice things up from a diet of all running all the time.

You are working complimentary muscles which not only helps balance your body and prevent overuse injuries, but it can increase your body’s ability to store glycogen in your non-running muscles which can be a big boost on race day.

Another key point in your question that I’m glad you mentioned Rick, was slowing it down. Keeping your easy runs truly easy is essential if you want to run longer, farther, faster, or more often.

In fact, I don’t even like to call easy runs easy. They should be called slow because when you’re tired and sore, even a slow run can feel hard.

When you’re feeling fresh and frisky a quick marathon pace run will feel like an easy jaunt in the park.

What we mean by easy should really feel slow, sometimes even awkwardly slow.

This is simply time on your feet practicing running fast by going very slowly. So maybe you are one of those runners who has tried running every day in the past and ended up over trained or injured.

It could be that daily running is not for you or it could mean that you were just running too fast most of the time instead of saving your speed for the speed days and going slow on the slow days.

Slowing down your runs and now I’m talking like 90 seconds to 2 minutes slower than your marathon pace or even slower, will make a huge difference in your ability to handle the additional miles.

Speaking of additional miles, I’d like to bring up your goal of running 60-70 miles a week. What makes you choose this range?

Many people pick a mileage per week that they think is ideal for some reason or another, believing that high mileage is the key to success.

Well just like running frequency, weekly mileage is also highly individual. Figuring out how much you should run a week is as important as how often.

Building up gradually is critical to increasing mileage safely. Despite many people’s perception, training should not leave you exhausted every single day, even if you’re training for a marathon or longer.

Yes, workouts and long runs are meant to make you tired, but exhaustion and debilitating soreness are not the goal during training and that’s when you should probably take a whole day off.

If you are continually waking up sore the day after a workout and you just can’t seem to get out of the cycle of soreness throughout the week, adding miles and or adding days is not advisable. Being sore occasionally is totally normal, every day is not.

On the other hand, if you are feeling good when you wake up in the morning; you feel rested and recovered the day after hard efforts, you experience soreness less often, and you generally feel better after runs than when you started, then it’s time to look at increasing something.

Whether it’s your speed on your hard days, your distance on your long runs, your weekly mileage, or your frequency.

This can sometimes be a lot to try to figure out on your own. A coach can really be helpful in sorting in this all out for you. Of course, at Runners Connect, this is what we do every single day.

If you are looking for a training plan that’s customized to you, check out our services at

That’s it for my week on the Extra Kick podcast brought to you completely ad free by our amazing Patreons that support the show.

We couldn’t do this without you. Thank you so much to everyone who has joined the Patreon community so far.

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Have a great run today.

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