I have question with regards to rest days & recovery runs.

The last three days I ran rather intensely (Interval & Intesive Durationrun). Today i was supposed to take a "rest day". (To be honest I never ran more then 3 days in a row).

But I feel like running today, but I don't want to risk injuries or risk overdoing it. So I was thinking of doing a small recovery run (3 - 4k).

I wanted to read up on the key differences between an actual rest day & an light recovery run. I read (including this interesting post) that both are very important yet none actually compare them although the benefits seem to be mostly the same.

So what are the key differences between doing a light recovery run & take a full day off? Do I risk overtraining from a light recovery run? Can a recovery run replace a rest day?

I thank you for your time

3 Answers 3


Your body only builds muscle when you are resting. Hence, the importance of good sleep and at least 1 rest day a week. Without rest, you simply won't improve as much as you could be able to because of fatigue.

There are so many factors at play here with sleep, ability, prior training, training cycle, diet, etc. to be able to say to what level the impact will be. Your answer will be unique.

  • 1
    Is there a method to measure the impact of a training on the body (e.g. how much rest is needed)? Or is it more touch & go + listing to your body?
    – User999999
    Jun 17, 2016 at 7:09
  • 2
    If you are giving it enough food and the right type of food; as well as sleeping 7-8 hours each day then you can workout for 1-3 hours, 6 days a week.
    – John
    Jun 17, 2016 at 7:15

I personally only run back to back days when training for an event. If not, i average 3.5 days a week with plenty of rest in between. Unless you are working toward a race or trying to lose weight, running alternate days is more than enough. Very often, especially while running, one can end up with very small microfractures in their legs, especially if they run in a heel-ball-toe fashion. Not giving these small injuries time to heal will cause them to aggravate over time and result in quite painful injuries. Best to give those legs a break for a day before taking them out again

  • Thank you on your input (+1). Yet running alternate days just doesn't cut it for me (I ain't improving enough). I'm used to train 6 days a week (cycling & running). But due to a decrease in spare time and a specific set of goals in my mind i wish to increase my running performance.
    – User999999
    Jun 17, 2016 at 7:07
  • 1
    Training 6 days a week is fine, you won't build any strength however, and your risk of injury goes way up. I suggest you try out running everyday for about two weeks, and see what your body says. If you feel overly tired or you're in pain, you're probably better easing off the intensity. You see you can get better without training everyday, in fact training everyday may even reduce your performance due to muscle catabolism during recovery. I'd say stick to your earlier cycling+running on alternate days routine and get plenty of sleep if you really are that hellbent on training everyday
    – c10yas
    Jun 23, 2016 at 1:38

A recovery run does not replace a rest day.

Recovery runs are most effective when you already have a solid base of strong bones, tendons, and joints built by months of steady training + rest cycles. If you don't have such a base, an extra run in your week may do more harm than good. When in doubt, rest.

To find out whether you're at risk of overdoing it, you need to review what your running schedule has looked like recently. Did the last 4 weeks include similarly intense 3 day blocks? If so, your body has proven it's well acclimated and a recovery run might not be a bad idea. If this intense week is an anomaly, you definitely risk overtraining by going for a recovery run today.

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