As surprisingly as it is for me to say this, it’s not all about running. I love running, but I rarely run more than three days in a row. In fact, I keep track of a whole bunch of my training and racing stats, but I have no idea what my longest consecutive day running streak is. In looking at my data on Smashrun (which I started using early last year and which makes it easy to see which days I ran in each month), I saw one 6-day streak and a couple of 5-day ones in 2016. Mostly, though, it’s 2- and 3-day streaks. Those days in-between? Some of them were cross-training days, mostly on the Concept2 rowing machine. Others were pure rest days.
I think it can sometimes be too easy to overlook the importance of rest in the workout regime. Rest is boring and feels lazy (although it can be hard to beat a good nap!). But rest days help the body recover from workouts, and recovery and overcompensation is what makes us get fitter. Also, to the extent that rest days are boring, that keeps up the enthusiasm the next day for running.
So, rest. It does a body good.
In case you are wondering, “what should I do with that extra hour or so that I’m spending not running?,” here are some suggestions:
Play a board game: Recent studies show that regular board gaming can help stave off dementia and other cognitive impairments as you get older. I love board games almost as much as I love running, and I’ve discovered in the past two years or so the amazing array of designer board games that are available. Ticket to Ride and Settlers of Catan are among the gateway games, if that means anything to you. And if not, go check out the strategy board game selection at Target!
Cross-train: The main idea of rest is to recharge mentally and physically. Running is an impact activity, which is good for building/maintaining bone health, but it also can wear down the body, especially tendons and ligaments. Rest helps the body recover, but that doesn’t you mean you have to be a couch potato. Cross-training with a non-impact activity can give you a bit of the satisfaction that running does without the impact. My personal favorite cross-training is stationary rowing, and I also do some light weightlifting with dumbbells.
Binge-watching: … but if you do want to have a couch potato day, what better reward than to binge-watch TV shows? (Of course, these are also great for streaming while running on the treadmill!) My taste runs toward serialized thriller shows, of which the following are available (sometimes) on Amazon Prime or Netflix:
The Americans – follow an all-American family in the 1980s, except they’re actually Russian sleeper agents! It’s less about the action and intrigue, and more about marriage and loyalty. It’s also not exactly safe for work, as stars Keri Russell and Mathew Rhys-Davis take turns as honey pots. (4 seasons available; 5th starts on FX soon)
The Expanse – it’s kind of like Game of Thrones in space, with the same epic scope of personal and political intrigue with bits of action and suspense. (If you’re looking for the sexposition that HBO is notorious for, though, you’ll be disappointed.) Set in the near future, when humanity has colonized the Moon, Mars, the asteroid Ceres, and a few other solar bodies, this starts off as a missing persons story crossed with a horror flick. (1 season available; 2d is airing on SciFi right now)
Justified – this is a modern Western set in the coal-mining part of Kentucky. Timothy Olyphant plays Deputy U.S. Marshal Raylan Givens, who deals with a motley collection of pot dealers, white supremacists, mobsters, and other bad guys. His character can best be summed up by an eight word sentence he utters: “You make me pull, I’ll put you down.” Violent in parts, and funny in parts – I was sad when the series ended after six seasons. The writers left at the top of their game. (6 seasons available)
The Last Ship – a U.S. Navy destroyer on a secret mission in Arctic Circle emerges from radio silence to find that a supervirulent disease has wiped out much of the world, and the civilian scientists they had to babysit may be the last hope to save the world. (3 seasons available but not for free streaming; 4th starts on TNT soon)
The Shield – the main characters are violent, law-breaking, immoral, and murderous. And they’re the cops! This isn’t as realistic as The Wire, but I found it a lot more fun to watch. The genius of The Shield is that it makes you root for the villains thanks to sharp writing and great acting by Michael Chiklis as the leader of the bad cops. Let me put it this way, without spoiling anything: watch the first episode, and you will know if this is a show for you. If it is, I’ll also say that it has possibly the best series finale ever in terms of ending the way a show should end. (7 seasons available)
24 – my favorite show of all-time. (9 seasons available; 24: Legacy airs Monday nights right now)