Back in my younger, even dumber days, I dreaded skipping a run. Even after a hard workout or long run, I would typically log at least 6 miles, just to tick off the fact that I ran that day. If I did somehow skip a day, I would always feel awful the next day; like I hadn’t run in months. So it was very rare for me to take a true rest day, and I know this is true for many other competitive runners as well.
But consider this: you don’t improve by running a workout. The workout is a stimulus which prompts your body to repair and rebuild during the rest period following the workout. You actually improve by resting after a hard session. In some cases, resting can mean just running a few easy miles. But after a particularly hard session, or a strenuous week of training, a true rest day gives your body a better opportunity to repair itself and get even stronger. Coach Ben Rosario of Northern Arizona Elite likes to say that he gives his athletes rest days to let them “absorb” the training they just did. Professional runners aren’t known for taking days off, but after three or four tough weeks of high mileage and big workouts, every runner at NAZ Elite takes one day completely off from running before starting another big training block.
For a high-mileage, competitive runner, a rest day could just be an easy 30-minute jog, or a really heavy training load might convince them to not run at all. For most of mere mortals, taking at least one day completely off from running every week or two is a good thing. You won’t lose any fitness from not running one day, and it will go a long way towards ensuring that you don’t get injured. So, when in doubt, I always urge my athletes to err on the side of caution and take a day off. I will never be angry about a runner telling me they were feeling tired and didn’t run. It is much preferable to the alternative of stubbornly trying to hit an arbitrary mileage goal, and getting hurt.
So, in summary, rest days are not a bad thing!