You know rest days are important, but you still feel like a horse in the starting gates. Rather than run, try these options.
With your impact, that is. Incorporating low-impact exercise (like cycling, rowing and the elliptical machine) allows you to get the aerobic benefits you want without taxing your bones and tendons. If you have access to a pool, swimming is one of the best options (try aqua-jogging for running-related benefits, or lap swimming if your legs need a break). “It has zero impact, and being in a cool pool is soothing,” says running coach Magdalena Donahue.
Grab a ball.
When you play tennis, a pick-up basketball game or backyard soccer with the kids, you form more well-rounded muscles and bones, which reduces your risk of injury. “When you’re running, everything is linear, so your bone gets stronger in one plane of motion,” says Vincent. “By doing something with lateral, back-and-forth movement, you strengthen in all planes.”
Make friends with your couch.
Rest days don’t mean you have to veg all day – in fact, Sarah Lavender Smith, author of The Trail Runner’s Companion, says you should always move a little – but there’s nothing wrong with taking a few hours to relax. Just do it on the day before your long run, not after. “It’s a mistake to go on a long, depleting run and then overeat and lie around the next day,” says Smith. Doing so causes feelings of lethargy, bloat and overall blahs, she adds.
Play video games.
Studies have found that video games can help control anxiety before performance, and one even discovered that those who levelled up needed less recovery time after a stressful event. Researchers aren’t entirely sure why, but they theorise that video games are a way to escape to an alternate reality – so they work as a calming mechanism to decrease stress.
Not only does a good snooze combat mood issues and fatigue, but Fitzgerald says it’s also the time when your body gets the most work done during its repair process. Plus, some research shows that poor sleep quality may be associated with loss of bone density, putting you at risk for developing stress fractures. (See? It all comes full circle.)
Science shows that this trending practice can help improve performance, ease symptoms of pain and better your breathing. Marks suggests lying on the floor with your eyes closed, focusing on breathing through your belly – not your chest – for at least five minutes. (Pro tip: Put a book on your belly – if the book rises, you’re breathing right.) If you’re too antsy for that, opt for a quiet walk in nature or download a meditation app for step-by-step instructions.