You have a 3-mile running session to tick off on your daily checklist, but the minute you get out of bed, your body feels exhausted, sore, and drained. Hold your horses! These are some apparent signs of overtraining telling you to need a day off from running
Almost all runners fall into running slumps only because they train themselves harder without recovering from previous microscopic running injuries.
Well, forcing yourself to get on the track and running faster for a longer period will spell trouble. But how do you recognize when your body needs rest?
Here are 5 tell-tale signs to help you understand your body, telling you to take some off days from running. Further, we’ll also walk through some changes your body goes through when you don’t rest during your training.
Having said that, let’s cut to the chase!
5 Signs You Need a Day Off from Running
1. Your Muscles Feel Sore
Being an avid runner while suffering from muscle soreness is bound to happen, but if it persists daily, it is a sign that your body needs some attention.
During the last few reps of a hard workout or the last few steps in a marathon, your lower limbs might feel like flaming hot dogs. This is what trainers call Acute Muscle Soreness, which signals excessive lactic acid buildup in muscles.
Mid and post-run soreness is natural as the burning and tingling sensation goes away in a few hours.
Consistent muscle soreness that drains your energy can take a regular runner off the track in no time.
And if you’ve been doing heavy workouts or running without rest days, your muscles will feel tight and painful 12 to 24 hours after running- a signal of microscopic muscle tear.
As mentioned by the American College Of Sports Medicine, this condition is referred to as Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness and its typical symptoms include:
Swelling in affected muscles.
Persistent pain for one to three days in lower limbs.
Loss of muscle strength
Expert runners suggest that if you’re suffering from acute post-run soreness, let it recover naturally as it wears off after a few hours.
On the contrary, runners with DOMS need to take rest for two or three days, practice recovery running, and do a few running drills, says Denise Cervantes, a fitness trainer at Herbalife nutrition.
2. You Feel Dehydrated and Lose Your Running Pace
If you’ve been feeling a mild headache, dry mouth, and drained during running, that means you’re dehydrated. While running, your body generates almost 20 times more heat, in the form of sweating, than your resting period. Therefore, runners are more prone to dehydration.
While mild dehydration can only lead to slight discomfort, severe dehydration in runners can lead to a heat stroke.
As reported by a 2011 study, 70% of runners out of 300 half and full-marathon runners experienced one or more incidents due to dehydration. Furthermore, almost half of the runners had suffered from heat stroke, sustaining severe dehydration.
For instance, if you’ve suffered from severe dehydration during running and lost your running pace, you can take a day off from heavy workouts to restore your energy.
On your resting day, drink enough water and juices and eat fruit to replenish all the fluid losses.
When you’re ready to hit the track, make sure to drink water at regular intervals during and after your run.
3. Your Resting Heart Rate Rises More Often
Elevated heart rate during exercise, heavy workouts, or long-period running is normal. However, if your heartbeat rises during an easy jog or run, it might indicate poor cardiovascular health.
If you’re an athletic runner, having a low resting heart rate of 30 to 40 bpm is normal but if it bumps to 47 or 50 bpm, it clearly indicates that you’re overtrained.
On the flip side, if you’re a non-athletic runner with a normal resting heart rate of 60-80 bpm, your resting heart might increase by 6 to 8 bpm when your fitness and health are not up to mark.
Furthermore, a higher resting heart rate means your heart is working hard to pump blood. If you’re training harder and ignoring body fatigue, it only means you’re digging a bigger hole for yourself. And it is high time that you delay your next workout session and let your body rest for a day or two.
Also, keep your fitness trackers activated around the clock so you can record your resting heart rate and return to your daily running session once your muscles get replenished.
You normally run 6 miles daily but today all of a sudden, you already start feeling sluggish after 3 miles.
Instead of trying harder to run further, you need a rest day from running and have a fresh start the day after.
During your peak training weeks, every runner experiences a bad workout every now and then; therefore, if you feel weak and slow, back off! It is a red flag.
Also, reassess your running pattern or training program on your resting day if you feel sluggish in every workout or training and it persists. You might be overtraining and pushing your body harder when it’s not ready to sustain higher loads of work.
Ease your training for a few days and then progressively step up the game when your body is ready.
5. Feeling Mental Burnout
Most runners often ignore mental burnout and push harder to reach their training goals and set records.
In 2009, a study published in the American Physiological Society gave experimental evidence about mental fatigue leading to short-term endurance in runners.
The research stated that mental burnouts reduce brain function and negatively impacts athletes’ exercise sessions.
Mental fatigue is a clear-cut symptom of overtraining. When your body is under constant stress, it releases the cortisol stress hormone. An increase in cortisone causes mood irritability, sleep problems, and fatigue.
The best solution to stop mental fatigue from sabotaging your run is to spend quality time with yourself and your family or go for a light walk. It will refresh your mind and relieve the buildup of stress in your body.
Just remember, recharging yourself by taking some rest from your daily running rather than overworking or overtraining is a better choice.
What happens if you don’t take a rest day from running?
As a fast-paced runner, when you overtrain your body without giving it time to recover, there is a high risk of stress fractures.
For instance, you have had a great 6-mile running session for the whole week but unfortunately, your bones didn’t get enough time to rest. Eventually, your bone cells begin to break down and the repetitive stress leads to tiny cracks on the surface of your bones, causing stress fractures.
Not to mention, once you force yourself to run faster with higher intensity, microscopic muscle fibers tear up, which eventually leads to overexertion.
Expert trainers advise runners to give their bodies at least 36-48 hours to reboot and recover from muscle fatigue.
What activities can you do on your rest days from running?
First thing first, when you wake up in the morning, listen to your body and assess whether you need a lighter dose of sleep or, perhaps, a light walk in the garden. You can have a productive resting day by doing a few activities to help your body recover.
Here are three simple things to have a productive rest day:
Perform a 30-minute recovery workout that includes footwork drills, yoga, core workouts, light jogging, and stretches.
Try to limit carbohydrates on your resting day and switch your diet to a moderate intake of vitamin, protein, and fiber-rich foods.
Reassess your training program or your running pace to analyze whether your running sessions benefit your body.
How often should you take a break from running?
Most running experts advise beginner runners to run three or four days a week and have the rest of their days off. Running alternate days keeps you motivated and helps your body recover at a faster pace.
The right number of runs completely depends on the type of runner you’re, your running goals, and your physique.
If you’re an athletic runner who has been overtraining for the past week, 2-3 days of rest with lighter workouts keep your body in shape.
Lastly, if you have suffered a running injury, your resting days might exceed a week or month, depending on the intensity of your injury.
Above all, as an avid runner, you might feel demotivated to take a rest day from running as there’s a running goal you’ve wanted to achieve for such a long time. But remember, your body needs time to recover from muscle fatigue and damage.
So, pair your day with a balanced meal and a light walk allowing your body to recover fully. And rest assured! You’ll breeze through your training goals in no time.