why easy running is so important

It can be so hard to convince yourself to do a light session when you feel like more. Even when I have easy days planned, I wonder what could hurt to run a little faster? If my body is up to the challenge, why not go for it?

Not so fast. Easy days may not be as flashy as intervals or HIIT workouts, but they’re an essential part of recovery, leaving you feeling refreshed and rested for tougher workouts.

So, why does your body need rest? You probably know that your muscles break when you do a hard workout, but the effect of exercise on your body is actually twofold: metabolic and mechanical.

Mechanical impact

“During exercise, we create micro-tears in our muscles,” says sports chiropractor Dr. Alex Tauberg. This is the mechanical effect on the body. “At the same time, hormones are released that play a role in the recovery process. By tuning your body to optimize this recovery and recovery process, you can get the most out of your workout.”

Metabolic Results

On the other hand, metabolic stress occurs when you burn the energy stored in your liver and muscle cells (also called glycogen). Once the glycogen is depleted, the body needs time to replace it. And if you don’t let your body recover, you’ll see the consequences.

“Overtraining syndrome often presents as generalized fatigue,” says Dr. Tauberg of the relatively common condition. “People will feel tired, plateau, have trouble falling or staying asleep and may develop psychological problems. The body can even go into a state where it starts using the muscles as an energy source.”

yaks. I’m pretty sure none of us want our bodies to break down our hard-earned muscles. We know recovery is important, but what does good recovery look like?

What is the difference between rest days and easy days?

Rest days and quiet days are not the same. A rest day is a day off from all exertion. You don’t have to chain yourself to the couch, but on these days you should try to give yourself a complete physical and mental break from exercising. Instead of exercising, you can catch up on chores at home, spend time with friends, enjoy the outdoors or watch TV.

Easy days are a little different. Although you exercise on easy days, you should aim to keep the intensity low. The goal these days isn’t to make big profits – it’s to aid in recovery.

And yes, they can even help you recover faster. A 2018 meta-analysis (a large analysis that looks at multiple studies) found that active recovery reduced DOMS. An easy day can leave you feeling refreshed and ready to crush your next tough workout.

How to have a useful and enjoyable ‘easy day’

Make peace by taking it easy

This day is supposed to be quiet, so keep that in mind when preparing for your workout.

“Being uncomfortable with rest is very common,” says Pilates instructor and health coach Annalicia Niemela. “If you find yourself uncomfortable with a rest day, ask yourself, ‘Why?’ Then allow this questioning to illuminate some of the beliefs you may have about yourself or rest that may not be very healthy.

You may be concerned that if you don’t train hard enough, you will become weak, your progress will stop or your weight will change. Whatever is bothering you when it comes to easy days, identifying the source of your worry can help you deal with it. “When we can awaken these beliefs and question them, rest becomes less triggering and more rejuvenating,” Niemela says.

Turn the intensity back… a lot

Not sure what an easy day looks like? It doesn’t have to be complicated – you can just do one of your normal activities and reduce the intensity. This can be swimming, running, cycling, yoga or even brisk walking.

According to the National Academy of Sports Medicine (NASM), you should aim to stay around 30 to 60% of your maximum heart rate. If you’re not sure what that means for you, use the ‘talk test’. If you can carry on a conversation comfortably and have no trouble catching your breath, you’re going at the right pace.

You may have noticed that these are all pretty cardio-dominant. If most of your workouts focus on strength training, you’re probably thinking, what should I do?

As hard as it is to slow down, your muscles really do need a break — especially if you supplement your runs with lifting. Personal trainer and powerlifter Robert Herbst recommends putting the weights aside in favor of a fun activity, such as an easy bike ride or basketball game.

“If you think you should be doing the same type of activity, get an exact light workout designed to aid recovery and follow through,” he says. “For example, if you did some heavy bench press yesterday, do some light, high-rep band triceps pushdowns.” This exercise does not strain the muscles, but flushes them with blood and helps you recover.

Deceive yourself to slow down

We may start with the best of intentions, but it can be way too easy to feel good halfway through a run and get a little carried away. Suddenly you’re chasing your Strava, burning lungs and your easy day plan is gone out the window.

That’s why certified personal trainer Matthew Scarfo recommends securing your easy day with a few simple tricks. “If you’re going for a walk, make running difficult by wearing less supportive clothing or clothing that is too warm for running,” he says. Yes, that means wearing your thin old yoga bra so that running literally becomes painful.

If that seems a little extreme, try making a solid plan by joining a class. “This might mean signing up for a low-impact or easy dance fitness class,” Scarfo says. You could also try arranging a jog or bike date with a friend or pre-book a spot at your local pool for a swim. The options are endless here: the key is to create a solid plan that you don’t want to cancel.

Do you find it difficult to slow down?  Try going for a walk in an outfit you just can't run in.
Do you find it difficult to slow down? Try going for a walk in an outfit you just can’t run in.

Make stretching and mobility a priority

Your easy day doesn’t have to be all about jogging and cycling and resistance bands. It’s even a good excuse to spend some time stretching and mobility — both will help you recover faster and avoid injury.

“A training session consisting of foam rollers and a short yoga session of 10 to 15 minutes on your quiet days is a great way to recover, prevent injuries, refocus your mind and move better not only for your training, but also for everyday life. activities,” says certified personal trainer Melissa Rodriguez. “The key is to engage in an ‘active’ recovery workout.”

Rodriguez recommends a combination of foam rolling, dynamic stretching and static stretching.

“Stretchings typical of yoga can help you improve your range of motion and mental toughness,” she says. “Moving through a full range of motion and isometric grips can be challenging.”

While this may be a different kind of challenge than you’re used to, it should still be tricky. “Foam rolling and stretching challenges your mindset from pushing your muscles (as you normally would for intense sessions) to listening to your muscles,” says Rodriguez.

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