To Rest or Not to Rest?

by | Updated: December 3rd, 2016 | Read time: 2 minutes

Q: How often do you take a day of rest””and what do you do on that day?

Brandon Marsh answers:

A: When it comes to planning down-time, I tell my athletes to compare their rest days to the intensity of a normal training day. Does the time off revitalize you, or do you get antsy? It’s important to listen to your body, so you know what works best for you. As an active athlete myself and a coach of others, here is my take on taking a day off:

As a professional: Personally, I take very few full days off from training. If I do, it’s usually a long travel day or the day following a key event. Those key events tend to be one of the last races of the season. I say last, because it’s important to move a bit in the days following a long, hard event. If it’s late in the season, or I have no other race on the horizon, I will take a day (or five) off after the race. Otherwise, a long travel day is the only other time I take a full day of rest, because working out can add additional stress on the body. The changing of time zones, eating at irregular hours and interrupted sleep that comes with extended travel are enough for the body to handle before a competition.

As a coach: I coach “typical” age-group triathletes. By “typical” I mean someone who works a full-time job, trains for triathlons and has other personal responsibilities. Not that the pros don’t have much of the same life demands, but there is clearly a difference ““ our full-time job is triathlon. So, depending on the athlete, I seldom schedule a day off in their training program. The reason for this is pretty straightforward: LIFE will dictate the days off.   An early meeting at work, or a sick child at daycare, will force you to skip a workout or two. Don’t sweat these unexpected off days, just accept and embrace them.

If you are fortunate enough to have a fairly regular schedule, I think that it’s appropriate to schedule a full day off every 2 weeks.   Certainly, I believe “active recovery” days should be a part of every training program.  “Active recovery” can include an easy spin on the bike, a light 30-minute swim or a casual 20-minute run.   Dialing it back will help loosen the muscles and get you ready for the next workout!