This week's question was emailed to me by forum member Little Lizard, who has taken barely a single rest day in years. She reckons gym work is enough of a rest for her legs, but could she be overdoing it and storing up trouble for the future?
"For years I've not taken a complete day off, apart from two days' bad flu and after a couple of hard races. My days in the gym give my legs a rest as I focus on upper-body strength. My fitness-freak boss says I should have a day of complete rest once a week, but when I take a day off my appetite drops and I feel sluggish. After four years of running I've done two marathons, 3:58 and 3:41, so surely I'm doing something right?" – Little Lizard
Your best answers
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It depends on who you are. I think some runners waste their time having rest days. If your upper-body weights days leave you feeling buoyant, cheerful and ready to go the next morning, it probably works perfectly well as rest. Even I can manage a couple of sessions of heel-raises and a bit of stretching on rest days. If you feel the weeks merge into one long treadmill, then you need to break it up with real rest days. – Stickless
Weights do not count as rest. Your body needs a total rest on occasions – surely the body does not "spot rest" (eg rest legs only) any more than it spot-reduces fat. Take one day off a week at least, and your whole body will benefit. – The Hoose-Goer
Cross-training helps because it's different! Running six days every week can get boring, and a few sessions doing something else is brillint for the mind and motivation if nothing else – it's something to look forward to and keeps your motivation up. – Greenone
If you see a rest day as a lazy day, you'll beat yourself up. See it as valuable consolidation instead. Even the upper body works hard at your distances, and these muscles need time out to refresh and repair, so have a day off! However, weights are great for runners' upper bodies, especially if they are used to redress the imbalances that running can cause, eg round shoulders. All the best for your marathons. – Cathy Lawford
Have a day off completely every week. The body needs it, physically and mentally. Enjoy it, and then look forward to your next training session. – kittenkat
Upper-body weight training probably doesn't contribute anything useful to your running, LL, but provided you enjoy it and don't find it stressful I think it's fine to regard those days as rest days. – Velociraptor
It's your leg muscles that need a rest from running, so yes, an upper-body gym day counts as a rest day. – Johnny J
It depends on what strength training you do. An hour with toning weights isn't the same as a hardcore back session. A big back day will leave you on your knees. No way is that rest. It's dead easy to overtrain. – Stump
Your body is the best judge. If you're treating your gym days as rest days and feeling fine on it, then it probably isn't doing you any harm. But do you not even take rest days in the lead up to a race day? Do you not have holidays, you poor troubled soul? – Martin Pace
I have a mentor for triathlon. He says rest is exactly that R-E-S-T. That means doing nothing, zilch, zero, nada, nowt. – Cath
Tri idiots (heroes) need a complete rest day because we need our arms for bike and swimming. But if you're marathon only, and you're not weight training your legs, upper body training shouldn't be an issue. If you were complaining of fatigue/tiredness or being "out of it", rest days should definitely be incorporated into your schedule. But you say you're not feeling the strain, so no worries. – Tri Taffia
There are two types of runner. Some think they have to do something every day. Others enjoy regular rest days. In my experience, the people who never give their bodies time to recover are the ones who spend the most time carrying injuries. Sometimes the long-term view of how much you do a year is more important than the short-term of how much you do a week. – Wirral Dave
I don't think there's too much wrong with training everday if you enjoy it, but to improve performance you need to juggle rest/easy, progressive build up, changing the load, and recovery/rest. So you may need complete rest days. For a fast race time, science says to taper. But I know loads of people who don't and still get good times. – Captain Snax
What drives you to run or exercise every day? Is it restlessness or addiction? When I was younger I was guilty of overtraining, and it knocked my health back for years. But it's always easier to tell someone else to rest than to take the advice. – Hairy Airey
In my opinion building muscle on your upper body just means extra weight to carry round 26.2 miles. I'd forget the weight training until after marafun, and enjoy the fact that those skinny arms and chest will give you a bit of extra speed on race day. – Ultra W
I would say your gym days count as rest days. If they didn't, I doubt you could do your long run after your tempo run (well you could, but it would be hard). – kev
I think a full rest day is only a requirement for full-time athletes. For the rest of us, the amount of time we train each day is so small, you probably get 22 hours rest a day anyway! Lots of people (including me) find running every day leads to injuries – but running one day, cross training the next seems fine if your body isn't complaining. – Jeremy Larcombe
Upper body weights don't count as rest in my running schedule, but I do count swimming as rest and cycling, but not too much, as "half-rest". – Welsh Alex
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