The 5 Best Times to Take A Day Off From Running

When is the right time to take an off day from running? Some would argue that every day is a good day – but “those people” certainly are not runners. From a coaching perspective, some days are better than others for taking a rest day and some days, not so much.

5 of the best days for a runner to take an off day
The 5 days that warrant taking an off day

There are obviously exceptions and none of this is set in stone, but these 5 situations are typically a good time to take an off day from running. They’re not in any particular order, however, you’ll find that some of these situations clearly present themselves as more opportune than others.

After a Peak Race

Nothing says “I deserve a rest” more than the day and most likely the week after a peak race. It’s time to recharge your batteries, let your body recover from the hard race and the months of training you’ve done leading up to the big race.

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Depending on the race distance typically dictates how much time off you need. If you’re wrapping up a half marathon or longer, I suggest somewhere in the neighborhood of 1-2+ weeks of little to zero running. Yes, two weeks of no running. The goal is to let your body fully heal AND it’s to let your mind and soul recover. You might get to 5 days and decide you’re good, but you might also get to the 5th day and decide you need another week. That’s totally normal!

Spread Evenly Throughout a Week

As a coach, I believe in off days. I think they are a very valuable part of the training demands we put ourselves through. Unfortunately, they aren’t always used correctly. I think the best way to use off days is to spread them out throughout the week. A good option would be directly following your hard days – maybe a Thursday after a hard Wednesday workout and Sunday after a long run.

What I don’t really like to see is 5 days straight of running and then 2 days consecutively off. I find that runners take too long to get in and out of days off and they feel rusty and stiff for the following 2 days, so they aren’t maximizing their recovery and they’re always sluggish.

Rest days for runners
A Runner’s Rest Day: the 5 situations where a rest day is totally warranted

When Something Hurts

You would think this would be obvious, but it makes sense that not everyone abides by this. If you feel something hurt (this doesn’t mean sore) then you should absolutely take some time off to let the affected area recover. Sore muscles do not equal hurting. You might very well be sore, but that doesn’t require an off day.

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The best days for a runner's rest day
These 5 situations warrant taking an off day in your training cycle

Feeling Run Down

In the middle of training for a big race and you just can’t shake the funk you’re in? Then you’re probably due for an extra off day built into your schedule. Typically, cutting your mileage for a few days – from 100% down to about 60-75% plus an additional day off should get you out of your funk. On top of adjusting your running calendar, you should also aim to get in a nap + a few hours extra sleep.

Have a Chest Cold

The saying goes “give it a neck check” – above the head, you’re good to go; below, settle for a rest day. I think this is a really good tip to use when you’re stuffed up and not sure if you should run or not. If the cold is up (in your head), give it a go. The running will help open you up and clear everything up. If it’s in your chest, you’re better served taking some time to let your body do what it needs to do to fight off the sickness.

Obviously, I’m not a doctor, so if you’re unsure about getting sick and trying to work out, you should seek medical advice. It’s in your best interest to get over the sickness as fast as you can, especially if you are training for something, and working out can only make the bad feeling linger for longer. Resting – complete rest – will allow your body to recover and get strong enough to fight off whatever you’re dealing with.

The 5 best days to take off from running
5 times when you SHOULD be taking a day off from running


There are good times and bad times to take a day off from running. You’ll have to experiment to find out what works for you. As a good rule of thumb, if you take a day off and you feel really sluggish the next day, you will want to avoid taking a day off before something important like a big workout, a longer long run or a race.

Each of the 5 situations I outlined above are guidelines, they aren’t rules. If you find that after your really big marathon you can jump right back into training the next day, then by all means, go right ahead. I wouldn’t suggest it, obviously, but you have to figure out what works for you.

Did you find this article helpful? Let me know by leaving a comment below or join the conversation on Twitter, Instagram or Facebook.

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15 thoughts on “The 5 Best Times to Take A Day Off From Running

  1. deborahbrooks14 October 2, 2019 — 8:00 AM

    not taking appropriate rest after a race is probably the biggest mistake that I see my running friends make

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Great advice. I see too many runners push through illness and injury. Then suddenly they’re out for a week (or more) because they couldn’t take that extra day off.

    I take two days off running a week, usually Monday and Friday. It works with both my running and my work schedule.


  3. I usually always take the day after a race off from running. I’ll either rest or go for a walk or do a spin class but I like that day off from running.


  4. Kim at Running on the Fly October 2, 2019 — 7:43 PM

    I’m the oddball that loves a very short (and very easy-paced) recovery run the day following a race (no matter the distance). For me, it loosens up my legs, and if I’m tired from the previous day’s race, I certainly won’t be overdoing it. I almost always run based on feel, and that prevents a lot of “ego” mistakes LOL I do see a lot of runners run through so many of their injuries, and it’s frustrating seeing the injured/recovery/injured again cycle some people put themselves through.


  5. This is so well put together…every one of us knows how important it is to take proper rest…but most of the runners seem confused about when to take the break…thank you for putting this together and explaining in such simple terms.


  6. This is very helpful info as it is easy as a runner to want to take no time or not much time off after peak races. Thanks for the helpful tips Marc!


  7. Totally agree – I don’t know how some runners go without any kind of break after a big training cycle.


  8. You’re welcome. I agree, that it can be difficult, especially because everyone operates differently.


  9. You’re not an odd ball. Our long runs in HS and college were always easy paced and the day after a race. That’s not odd. What is odd (to me) is running a marathon and then not taking any kind of break.


  10. I like that strategy – especially doing some spinning to flush out your legs.


  11. Awesome. When I was marathon training I did the same. I went 15 straight weeks without running on a Monday 🙂


  12. Much as I hate the idea of rest days, these are all great days to take a break. Rest is good for healing and recovery both and we shouldn’t shy away from them.


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