The 3 R’s of Running: Recovery, Rest, Recharge

Posted by Filed Under: Running Injuries

If you wind up on the injured list, a health care practitioner will usually tell you to follow the RICE acronym—rest, ice, compression and elevation. Take note that the very first letter— “R”—stands for “rest.”

When you have a cold, the doctor tells you to “get some rest.”

As you prepare for a big race, you probably spend the last few weeks of training in “tapering” phase which is just another word for rest.

Are you sensing a trend here? Doesn’t it seem like rest is an important part of the process? Then why is it so hard for a runner to incorporate more rest in to their training schedule?

Here are some reasons that have been given for not resting:

  1. Losses and Gains. If I stop or slow down, surely my fitness level will decrease and all my hard work will have been for nothing. This will certainly lead to weight gain followed by a deep, dark depression. I’ll lose my confidence, self-esteem, job, and significant other. My dog will shun me. All because I stopped running or cut back the mileage for a couple of weeks.
  2. Mileage Envy. How come he gets to run a 15-mile trail run this weekend, and all I get to do is go swimming? Why am I stuck running a measly 3-miler when she has a cool track workout planned? And what about all those people entering cool races!? Not fair!
  3. Invincibility. I’m having an awesome season, I just don’t want to stop. What if I have another PR in me and I miss my chance to run the perfect race? Must. Keep. Racing.
  4. Revenge. I can’t believe I didn’t PR at that last race! There’s another race in a few weeks. No need to waste all this training…I’ll just try again. And again, if necessary. The season isn’t over—I’ll get that PR yet!
  5. Need Fulfillment. I have to run. Have. To. Run. Must run. If I don’t run, I can’t be held responsible for my behavior. I’ll go crazy if I don’t run, which will lead to depression. I’ll lose my confidence, self-esteem, job, and significant other.

In reality, a couple of weeks of rest will not have any long-term, irreversible effects. As a matter of fact, slowing down or stopping for a while will actually be good for your body and will most likely assist in preventing an injury. Cross-training is a great alternative for active rest if you just can’t stop moving.

Rest means repair—give your muscles a chance to heal, grow and rejuvenate. Spend your rest phase planning out a new training schedule. Peruse the race calendars. You may even have time to read a book for pleasure or spend time sleeping in. Think about how excited and motivated you’ll be to get back out there!

About Dianna

Dianna, also known as the Running Chick with the Orange Hat (Running Chick for short) moved from being a periodic gym rat to a runner in January of 2003 during a botched New Year's resolution. Her newly rediscovered fondness for running quickly blossomed into a full-blown obsession. Within a year and a half, she went from suffering through two miles on the treadmill to running a marathon. Cotton was discarded for wicking fabrics and gel was no longer something she put in her hair. Since then, she has continued to challenge herself, first with achieving her Boston Qualifying time, then running a PR at Boston and doing an occasional sprint distance triathlon. Future endeavors include a trail marathon and longer distance triathlons. Dianna has been blogging about her running adventures since April 2004, even getting an article 'published' online at Runner's World as well as capturing the attention of a local news channel. She can discuss all things related to running, swimming, and biking, at great length, without ever getting bored. In her free time, she enjoys pina coladas and getting caught in the rain, with her husband and multi-racial canine in Connecticut, U.S.A.

  1. Joe Ely on December 5th at 6:10 pm

    oooooooh. Di, you’re talking to me!! As I sit here, with an appointment at 1:15 on Wednesday with the local sports doc for my (supposed) ITB flameout!!!

    And, sure enough, today at work I saw a group of running moving past on the trail outside my window…envy surged!

    So far, no depression or job loss…my dog is still here…my wife just chuckles at me. So, I guess I’m still OK.

    But you identify all of this wonderfully and humorously well!!!

  2. Chris on April 26th at 1:25 pm

    Thanks, after running a difficult hilly half 14 days ago, a fast road race 7 days ago and 7 miles 6 days ago I wonder why my calf muscle is screaming at me?

  3. Dirk on September 3rd at 3:26 pm

    Wow! Thanks. I am considering taking a week off after continuous exercise for the last 3 months. I am paranoid that I may never start again if I stop. Thanks for the info. I now feel more at ease.