Every runner has their hard days; those days when despite the fact that you had actually been looking forward to your workout, your legs feel like lead and it seems like there are bricks tied to your feet. Suddenly, what was going to be the highlight of your day turns into an uphill battle (even if you’re running on flat terrain) and you absolutely can’t wait for it to finally be over.
It’s days like these that make running seem difficult; like a chore rather than a sport that you love.
But the one thing about running that's probably even more challenging than pushing through those tough days, is taking time off. If you love the sport as much as I do, you know exactly what I'm talking about. We’re a stubborn group of athletes, aren’t we?
What's even harder than running when you really don't feel like it? Not running when you know that you shouldn't—when you know it's time to take a break but would rather sacrifice every single one of your race medals than not go for a run. (Especially if it was a workout scheduled as part of a training plan. Am I right?)
By no means am I a veteran runner, but if there's one thing I've learned about the sport after five years of quality time spent out on the road, it's that more often than not, rest is always the answer.
Have a strange twinge in your knee? Take a break for a day. Ice that sucker. Feel pain in your feet? Switch to cycling for a bit. In other words: when in doubt, rest. Taking a day or two off from running is usually the best way to prevent that little bit of pain from turning into a full-blown injury.
Part of becoming a great runner is learning to listen to your body and knowing, based on the signals it sends you, when it's time to take a break. The key is to take action when the first sign that something might be wrong shows up. Note: signs might not always show up in the form of pain. Pay attention to things like symptoms of overtraining, like moodiness or trouble sleeping, too.
Like I said, runners can be stubborn, which isn’t always a bad thing, but when our stubbornness causes us to push too far, it usually leads to injury.
What’s even harder than not running for one or two days? Being forbidden from the sport for weeks or months at a time. Every runner will experience some sort of injury at one point or another; it’s inevitable. But for the most part, all it takes to avoid major damage is intelligent training and, even though we hate to admit it, a little bit of rest.