Rest days are an essential part of training
While they may seem like you are slacking and make you worry that you won’t build strength or increase speed or lose weight, time off allows your body and mind to fully recover and grow.
What happens when you don’t take a break?
Think about how you feel after a poor night’s rest: Your cognitive skills are fuzzy and your body starts to fall into a catabolic state, which can skyrocket stress, sap muscle strength, and cause mood shifts. The same fatigue happens on the body when you don’t allow it to recover from high-intensity exercise. Never taking a day off sets the body up for a breakdown. You become more susceptible to severe muscle soreness, a suppressed immune system, improper sleep, a decrease in strength and performance, and injury.
How often should you rest?
Rest days benefit your mind too – scheduling a mandatory break from training will help you get excited to jump back into your program. They are an essential part of an exercise program. Your body needs about 48 hours to recover between exercises targeting the same muscle group. You can still exercise every day, just not the same muscle. Youth baseball pitchers need at least 24 hours rest after a game. Some runners rest once a week. Everyone is different. Rest needed depends on many factors including your age, activity, and nutrition, but everyone needs some. If you work out intensely but don’t allow for down time, your body will be less apt to reap the benefits.
If you are starting out with a new exercise program or are a beginner, rest every third day (that is, exercise two consecutive days and rest the third). More experienced exercisers should remain inactive or take an active recovery day once a week. In addition, every eight weeks include a week where you de-train, or decrease your training load.
What does “rest” mean?
How inactive you are on your rest day depends on the intensity of your workouts leading up to it. For example, if you are killing it in the gym day in and day out, your rest day should be a day completely off from taxing your body. You might go for a casual walk at most, but no great effort to do more physical work than necessary should be made. However, if your workouts have been light to moderate intensity all week or you’re a beginner exerciser, you can take a more active recovery day. That might include playing a sport outside, taking a yoga class, or going for a longer walk.
During your de-training week every eight weeks, decrease the intensity on your training load and incorporate more stretches into your program. And don’t forget that any activity you do on your rest day should also help your mind take a break. Whether it is yoga, a walk in the park, or taking the dog out with your spouse, do whatever clears your head and stops you from thinking about counting reps or reaching your goal. You will be ready to get back in the gym once you have had your time off.
Why is resting so crucial?
The muscles grow when you rest
Lifting weights creates tiny tears in your muscles that can only repair during rest. This repair process is what makes your muscles stronger than before. While it is necessary to work your muscles thoroughly for muscle-building proteins, it is equally important to give your body enough time to recover until you don’t feel sore any longer.
Overtraining can cause a weight-loss plateau
You know that working out too often or too intensely can lead to too much weight loss, but most people don’t realize that it can also have the opposite effect. Thanks to your body’s built-in protective mechanisms, overtraining can cause a plateau in your weight loss (where you burn the same amount of calories you eat) or even weight gain.
The body uses glucose, a carbohydrate, as an energy source. Glucose is primarily stored as glycogen in the muscles as well as the liver. Glycogen breaks down within the muscles during exercise to give you energy to workout. Rather than loading up on carbs, you should concentrate on eating a healthy diet that includes many different foods, including those carbs, but that is low in fat.
Rest days help you regroup. Too much exercise without adequate rest can lead to burnout. You will become physically and mentally drained and find it hard to drag yourself to the gym. Your health is too important to let that happen. Take those breaks, chill out, recuperate, restore your energy and come back refreshed, healthy and ready to dive into your workout again.
You might feel moody
Exercise can be a potent anti-depressant – studies show it works just as well as medication for mild depression. And we can attest to the mood-boosting power of the runner’s high. But too much exercise can have the opposite effect, causing anxiety over workout schedules and depression from being chronically run down.
It is common sense that resting is beneficial for injury reduction, but why? Well for starters, rest days prevent overuse. That extends from running to lifting and even walking. If you are a regular runner, you know how much your legs and feet can take until you just need a day off. If you push it too hard without a break, your muscles and joints suffer from overuse and that’s where injuries can happen.
Women can face problems with menstrual cycle
Having your period may not be your favorite time of the month, but its presence indicates that your body thinks it is fertile and in good shape to grow a baby, while its absence signifies a problem, especially if it disappears for three months or more. The drop in estrogen due to over-exercising can also cause premature bone loss, making you even weaker and more susceptible to injury.
You feel sluggish and exhausted all the time
We all love the great energy burst we get from an awesome workout, but more exercise does not always mean more energy. If your workouts are regularly making you crash in the afternoon or drag through your day because you are so tired and sore you can barely move, then you are doing too much.
You might not sleep well
Is your sleep data all over the place? Over-training could be the culprit. Too much exercise can put your body in a constant state of restlessness or on high alert making a good night’s sleep tough to achieve. A telltale sign is an increase in your resting heart rate. Taking those rest days can help bring down your alertness and heart rate, which can help get you a night of sound sleep.
Joint health is affected
Exercise puts stress on the body, including the joints, which don’t have much padding for projection from injury. The knee, ankle and hip joints take a particular beating with respect to the repetitive nature of running. Without regular rest breaks, they may become sore and swollen. A much needed rest between bouts of exercise will help avoid this problem and keep your joints healthy.
So, please make sure you don’t skip rest days – it is vital to give your body a sufficient time frame to heal.