My rest day m.o.

Yesterday ended up being an unplanned rest day, but sometimes that’s exactly what I need. I woke up early enough for some miles, but the desire to drink coffee and answer emails in bed won out over running. I half-considered running during lunch or after work, but never felt excited enough about it to follow through. I wasn’t tired, my legs felt fine, but plain and simple – I needed a mental break from running. And that is one of the main reasons why I don’t like to plan rest days. I let them happen when it feels right and that usually averages out to a day off every 10 days – 2 weeks or so. Some people need more rest days than that, but for me, this system works.

When I’m training for a race, I don’t cross-train. If you love a certain activity (like spinning or swimming) or are injured, then by all means you should do what works.  However, my philosophy is that if I want to be a better, faster, more efficient runner, I need to run. I don’t want to waste my time (or energy!) on activities that won’t directly benefit me on race day. Sure, I could probably work a little harder on core strength and the like, but if I only have 60-90 minutes each day to train, I need to be efficient about what I do. That means using my time primarily for tempos, long runs, and recovery miles. Anyway, that’s just a long winded way of me explaining why I don’t cross-train and why my rest days are 100% rest. No yoga, spinning, or elliptical if I’m taking the day off from running. If I’m going to rest my muscles, bones, and brain, I’m going to rest them completely.

The best part about days off? I feel refreshed and motivated to get back out there the next day. I might have sweared a few times when my alarm went off at 5:30am this morning, but I still felt pretty good about hitting the road for some a.m. miles.

In other news, I found myself with a block of cream cheese and the desire to bake something late last weekend. I don’t think I’ve ever purchased a weight watchers product in my life (full fat dairy usually >>> low fat dairy), but I agreed to sample some weight watchers brand cream cheese. I’ll try anything once! Especially if it is given to me for free. And you know what? It was good! It had similar nutritional stats and taste as the other American neufchatel (aka reduced fat) cheese’s I’ve tried. Anyway, I wasn’t a huge fan of the label (for someone not trying to lose weight, having “weight watchers” product in the fridge is a little embarrassing), but did it work well in my recipe? Yes, yes it did. Would I use it again? Yup. I based my recipe on Taste of Home’s pumpkin cheesecake bars, but made a few alterations along the way. I’m terrible about following baking directions, but thanks to my friends butter and brown sugar, things usually turn out okay.

Pumpkin Cheesecake Bars (serves 12)

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup whole wheat flour
  • 1/3 cup packed brown sugar
  • 5 tablespoons cold butter
  • 1/3 cup chopped hazelnuts
  • 8 ounces reduced fat cream cheese, softened
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1 cup canned pumpkin
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 Tbs ground cinnamon
  • dash of salt and nutmeg

Directions:

  • In a large bowl, combine flour and brown sugar. Cut in butter with fingers (or two forks) until crumbly. Stir in hazelnuts; set aside 3/4 cup for topping.
  • Press remaining crumb mixture into a greased 8-in. square baking pan. Bake at 350° for 10-15 minutes or until edges are lightly browned. Cool on a wire rack.
  • In a large bowl, beat cream cheese and sugar until smooth. Beat in the pumpkin, eggs, vanilla, cinnamon, nutmeg,and salt. Pour over crust. Sprinkle with reserved crumb mixture.
  • Bake for 30-35 minutes or until golden brown. Cool completely and then cut into bars. Store in the refrigerator.
These were super easy to make and since they contain whole wheat flour and pumpkin, they are practically as healthy as salad. Or at least that is what I told myself after I finished the entire batch in 4 days…

I’ve also eaten the same delicious dinner two nights in a row and eventhough it’s not fancy, I’m going to tell you about it. I toasted some whole bread and stacked it with turkey breast, melted pepperjack cheese, roasted red pepper, arugula, and red onion. Yum, you should make this. I also baked some steak fries in the oven and served them on the side with lots of ketchup. French fries were my favorite food when I was four and I’m pretty sure they still are.

But beer is coming in as a close second…

In sad news, yesterday was my last CSA vegetable pick-up for the season. In the bag: tatsoi, green lettuce, kale, carrots, potatoes, onions, celeriac, Butternut squash, hot peppers, and garlic. I loved being part of the West Harlem CSA – even if it meant experimenting with weird produce (I’m talking to you, Kohlrabi) and going way back up to my old ‘hood after I moved to BK  for pick up. Veggies, you were (mostly) worth the 1+ hour subway ride. The same farmer also delivers to some Brooklyn locations, so watch out Prospect Heights CSA – I’ve got my eye on you for next Summer.

Thoughts on rest days? How often do you take them? Love ’em or hate ’em?

  • Ali

    I am so proud of you for rocking out the 5:30 am wakeup. Well done, Megan! Now if only we could get you to make the run to Central Park that early…

    I love this: “If I’m going to rest my muscles, bones, and brain, I’m going to rest them completely.” I read so many blogs from people who say, “I took a rest day today and did a 90-minute yoga class.” Really? That’s resting? I’m going to go ahead and say that I don’t feel “rested” when I’m squatting and shaking in that damn chair pose, or adrhdruadasana or whatever it’s called. Rest is rest. I also admire you for working so diligently toward your race goals and making that at constant focus. I’d love to do the same…if only I wasn’t so in love with my spinning instructor. Dang it.

    Keep doing what works for you and thanks for sharing your philosophy! You’re a wise lady.

  • I am not a fan of rest days, but I’ve had to take a few in the past two weeks. I get antsy-feeling, like I *should* be doing something, so I distract myself with errands, baking, or a good book.

    Speaking of which — those pumpkin bars are definitely going in my oven! Pumpkin + whole wheat = totally healthy (or I don’t care, because they sound delicious, and life is too short to deny all pumpkin-related pleasures) 🙂

  • Anonymous

    If Mario Lopez taught spinning classes, I’d be all over that. Just sayin’,

  • Thanks for sharing- I always find it interesting to hear how people approach their routines.  I usually have one rest day/week, mostly because I don’t feel like waking up to workout. But then again, I’m not training for anything, so there’s that. Your last CSA bundle looks like a good one!

  • Pearson Smith

    I take a rest day around the same time frame, but have tendency to not fully rest. As much as I know they are good for me… it is so hard to take the day completely off with the runner mentality. I fell sick the stomach bug last week and laid in my bed for 24 hours starting at the ceiling. Hows that for rest?

    http://wyirun.blogspot.com

  • Sadly, I’m injury prone so I’m forced to cross-train. 🙁 I’m hoping it’s mostly just the fact that I haven’t been running long enough for my body to realize that it’s not just a phase. That’s what I tell myself anyway. 🙂 

    Aaaaaaand now I might have to nurse my overwhelming urge to bake and eat pumpkin cheesecake bars. Thanks a lot, Megan. 😉

  • Anonymous

    i think it can definitely take awhile to build up strength and get your body used to the impact and motion of running. i remember a lot of soreness and shinsplints in my first couple of years doing the sport….

    if i had more time, i think i would dabble more in other sports (sometimes i think about what i will do if there ever comes a time when i can’t or don’t want to run), but due to a busy schedule, running is all i usually have time for. i used to spin regularly back in 2009 though and i miss it a little bit!

  • okay. i’ll eat weight watchers cream cheese if it’s paired with butter and sugar, i guess. haha. but seriously, these look awwwesome.

    i like your rest day philosophy. i also sort of agree about the cross-training. when i was more of a runner, doing yoga kind of messed me up – i’d be sore and slow for a day or two after a vigorous vinyasa class. now that i balance the yoga and running, i’m sore and slow every day! YAY. not sure where that leaves me, except in agreement that running + other things might not necessarily make you a better runner – might as well take a rest day. and eat cupcakes. and drink beer. yay.

  • I am the opposite – I plan rest days the same way I plan my workouts. I love them, but I do feel pretty guilty when I am forced to take them or when I am too lazy to workout and I end up having a rest day instead :p Those pumpkin cheesecake bars look great. I also tried the Weight Watchers cream cheese and liked it, but not as much as neufchatel.

  • Katie

    Ooh, I want to eat a fancy sandwich for dinner tonight, too!

  • RunTheLongRoad

    i agree with you on rest days.  if i do yoga or (rarely) strength train, it’s on the same day as a recovery run.  and i so look forward to my rest days!

  • Anonymous

    oooh. pumpkin cheesecake bars! I want to try. I love to hate rest days, I think. But one thing I definitely learned during this marathon training is that I don’t take enough, and it ended up leaving me a little slash a lot burnt out by marathon time. I think I need to schedule them in order to do them sometimes, but I like your philosophy too!

  • I used to schedule them (my favorite rest days were Thursdays because that’s a big tv night- ha). But now, I sort of just go with the flow. So instead of automatically once a week, I end up taking a rest day probably every 7-10 days. They often coincide when I’m hungover. Weird how that happens… 😉

  • Anonymous

    hahaha, i love you for saying that. it’s funny how beer can persuade me to take a day off…

  • Laura

    I totalllly love rest days. There’s nothing worse than going out for a run when you don’t feel like it and feeling like crap the whole time. Funny though, I have this strange theory that running hungover lets me sweat out all that whiskey…that just me? 🙂 

  • I take 2 rest days per week, but I’m pretty young in running years (I will celebrate my 3rd running birthday in February). I typically like them as its when I do all of my errands and stuff. But, since I been forced into resting the 2 weeks before the marathon and now, obviously, I’m not so into them….

    I agree – I like my rest days to be total rest days unless you count trips to CVS and Whole Foods which do get the heart rate up.

  • I usually rest two days per week, although chatting with certain runners who I think might know more than me are suggesting to up my running to six weeks to drop some time off my races.  That sounds intimidating!  That being said, my rest days are REST DAYS.  Granted, they 100% fall on days that I work, and twelve hours as a nurse is hardly “resting.”  But no swimming, no elliptical, no nothing.  I believe that the best way to get better as a runner is to run, and since we’re not pros and have jobs and social lives to keep up (and conversations with parents…about climbing the corporate ladder), then we have to maximize our time running.  If you have extra time to cross train and such, then go for it…but if not.  Stick to running.

  • Anonymous

    word. we need to have a boston training pow wow soon 🙂

  • Those cheesecake bars look fantastic, Weight Watchers cream cheese or not 🙂 I may just have to try them out!
    Also! Hi – Love your bloggg

  • Corey

    You seem to have the concept of rest days down, just the way it should
    be – I think a lot of runners (myself included) struggle with the
    concept of resting and not listening when we really need it. I usually take 1 per week but sometimes its 1 every 2 weeks, sometimes its 2 times per week. Over the years I’ve tried to take them as needed instead of scheduling them in.
    You are in
    such a good place with your running and everything seems to be coming together for you…which is perfect timing for Philly!! I have a feeling you are going to do something really spectacular.

  • Good luck on your upcoming race. Sure you’ll smash it!

  • cross training hater! haha. I took over 1.5 min off my 5K PR in a year and a half after adding in (note adding, not substituting) cross training to my normal 50something miles a week. I had a coach who very much agreed with the miles make champions philosophy and I wanted to follow… but I kept getting injured, so finally I said screw it, I’ll run what I can and fake the rest. really made me realize that there’s more than one way to skin a cat.

    that said, it’s SO true that running is the most time efficient. it would be pretty sweet to just be able to run lots of miles and not stress about the rest. granted, now that I am marathon training and done with triathlons for the year the XT is pretty minimal, but I like when I can fit a bit in. I’ve been running 6 days/wk, but usually don’t take a complete rest day until I feel like I need it, which is probably ~2 wks on average but might be a week, might be a month.

    when I schedule rest days, I hate them… but when I wait until the mood strikes, I love them!

  • Anonymous

    heh, guilty as charged! i think part of my resistance to cross-training is that i’m so time crunched. swimming and cycling require more gear and advance planning vs. just tying on my running shoes. after the half next weekend, i’m going to scale back on the running for a few weeks and try some different activities. i just signed up for a Bollywood dance class 🙂
    and so true that “there is more than one way to skin a cat” – some of my college teammates had great success with cross training while they were injured.

  • This is so interesting — I’m a new runner, so there were a lot of activities I was doing *before* running and I’ve had a hard time either a) giving them up or b) fitting in those activities + running. That’s been mostly OK because I was only running about 15-20 miles per week, but now I have some actual race goals and a possible marathon on the horizon for 2012 and it’s just starting to sink in that, oh, I’m actually going to want/need to run more. In the short-term I’m going to justify my actions by training for a triathlon before I figure out my next running move. Maybe that’ll get it out of my system!