Along with incorporating rest days, taking time completely off following a race is necessary at both a physiological and emotional level. Determining that time, however, can vary.
In general, Roche suggests resting anywhere from three days after a 50K up to two full weeks after a 100-miler. Here’s how long to rest after different race distances, according to Roche:
While rest days usually consist of little more than short walks (and in some cases, nothing more than walking to the fridge for more food), on later rest days Roche encourages easy hiking, yoga or cross training.
Not surprisingly, most athletes have a difficult time accepting rest, even when they understand its importance. Social media movements like #restdaybrags have started to encourage the dialogue—and occasional frustrations—of taking time off. When asked how Roche herself tackles rest days, she says rest is easier when her identity isn’t fully defined by running.
“My career has followed what Michelle Obama refers to as a swerve, and so there have been times where I’ve been more defined as a runner than anything else,” she says.
Finding identities and interests outside of running can help alleviate that pressure, whether through work, relationships or hobbies. For athletes struggling with rest days, Roche encourages listening to podcasts, reading interesting books, studying a new subject or tackling a challenging thought question.
As for Roche’s preferred way to recover?
“I like spending time outside in nature moving as slowly as possible.” But, she adds, “I’m often in a permanent state of laundry crisis and rest days usually help with that.”
By Jade de la Rosa. Jade is a freelance writer and ultra runner based in Bellingham, Washington. She holds an MFA in Creative Writing and is working on her first historical fiction novel.