As the gravel crunches beneath my feet and sweat beads on my forehead, I pass by families, tourists, and fellow runners. Jogging down West Drive in Central Park may not be the most spacious of routes, but it may just be one of the most beautiful. The lake is adjacent to my right and it’s apparent that spring has arrived. Smiling, I swerve around slower runners and neglectful parents with toddlers when I realize I need a break and head over to a shaded area for a quick moment to catch my breath.
Arriving, I lie down on a piece of manicured lawn, breathe deeply, and look up at the leaves, taking note of the sunlight shining through the branches here and there. Closing my eyes, I feel my heart rate begin to slow, finally. My fifth day in a row running this week, I can feel my shins burning more than usual. My knees are aching and I’m not catching my breath as fast as I normally do.
Generally, I only run about 3-4 times a week so this extra day is taking a toll, a greater toll than I expected if I’m being perfectly honest. Acknowledging such to myself means one thing: I need to rest. Tomorrow, the only place I’ll be running to is my living room couch. It’s important to know when to rest. My last decade of running experience has taught me at least that much, but there are indicators other than simple fatigue that mean it’s time to take a break:
You’ve lost noticeable weight since your last run.
More specifically, by noticeable, I actually mean a 2% drop in weight. If it’s 2% or more, that can potentially mean a body fluid fluctuation, which likely means you just didn’t drink enough water either before, during, or after your last workout. As a result, your body is working overtime to counteract a lack of hydration and the extra work is taking a physical toll on your body, as can be seen by the 2% drop in body weight. If your body is already working overtime, then it cannot work to bolster your running performance, considering your body’s resources are already being spent trying to rehydrate you. It’s important to remember to rehydrate and rest so that your body’s resources can be spent on increasing performance.
To find out what “usual” is, you should take your pulse every morning when you wake up. As you can imagine, your resting rate is most exemplified when you’re sleeping. If you do this and then realize your resting heart rate is actually faster than what is normal, you should absolutely take a rest day. A sign of stress, an elevated heart rate essentially means that your nervous system has released hormones into your body in order to transport oxygen to your muscles and brain more quickly. So, if your heart is racing at rest, you’re best off taking a day to recuperate.
While not the most glamorous of indicators, if your urine is a dark shade of yellow, it may be because you are dehydrated, which means you should take a day off, drink a lot of water, and relax. However, certain vitamins, supplements, or specific foods (or the lack thereof) the night before can also induce a color change. Regardless, if you’re peeing dark yellow, you should take note and be wary.
Rest is integral to recovery. While pushing through the fatigue may seem like the most resilient thing to do, it is often not the smartest thing to do. Your body needs a chance to recover, even if your mental stamina doesn’t. With rest, your body will be better able to perform, to rebuild, and to exceed prior performance. With rest, you can continue to progress. Without it, your athletic performance could in fact regress.