Have you heard someone say “Rest day? Where is my rest muscle and how do I train it?” or “Rest day. Aka thinking-about-the-gym-all-day.” For some, rest days are really hard. I am sometimes one of those people. Working out at the gym, doing circuits, spinning or Muay Thai training makes me feel so good that I find it hard on days that I don’t get this endorphin high in the morning. I miss it. I crave it. However, as I have mentioned in my blog about overtraining, this can lead to addiction and overtraining. Which is definitely something we want to avoid. So here I want to explain why rest days are so important. For your body, mind and soul.
For most of us, it is quite obvious why we need rest from exercising. The body needs time to relax, repair, restore, recharge. Nothing works well on an empty tank or flat batteries. That’s why we feel flat and exhausted after nights of bad sleep – the body needs its rest.
Not resting your body can have serious consequences. Some of which may be counterproductive to your goals. Risking an injury for example is never a good idea. Not only because of the pain, but you also end up being forced to rest longer than would have been necessary in the first place. Decreasing performance and an adrenal burnout are definitely not helpful either in achieving your goals.
Apart from the physical concerns, there are also serious mental implications by not having any rest from exercising. You may become addicted, neglecting family, friends and loved ones. Working out hard and pushing yourself in the gym (or track, or swimming pool, etc.) requires a lot of mental strength. Your mind needs downtime too.
Having a well-rounded exercise program that allows for scheduled rest days has many benefits.
Resting allows our bodies to recover and repair. It makes our muscles stronger. Without rest, the muscles become weaker – and you risk injury on top. And it’s not only the muscles that need time to repair – so do tendons and ligaments.
Resting allows our bodies to fill up our energy stores. As a result, our performance improves.
For me personally, rest days are important to refresh my mind. To keep me motivated. Overdoing it in the gym (or wherever the case may be) leads to burnout – and the joy of training is lost. It’s more important to focus on the quality of your workout than the quantity. More is not always more.
When I train, I always try to give a 100%. If I feel like I can’t, I know it’s time to rest. That doesn’t mean hitting PBs every time you train. But it means that you are able to make it count.
Now, having talked about why we need rest, let’s look at what rest actually is. And how often you need it.
In terms how much rest you need, as with many things in life, the answer is it all depends. It depends on your level (newbie or seasoned athlete?) and the intensity you train at. If you are absolutely spending yourself every time you work out, you should really just rest on your rest day or maybe go for a walk at most. But if you’re a beginner or you just exercised lightly to moderately you could take an active recovery day. So for example play basketball with your friends or do some yoga with your spouse. What’s really important is that you’re not in the gym (or the pool or the track), which also gives your mind a break. It’s so important to switch off, and not think about reps and loads and goals.
I would be interested to hear how you handle your rest days and what you’re up to when you’re having a break. Drop me a line, I am looking forward to hearing from you!
If you are interested in reading more about the importance of muscle recovery, you can find some information and corresponding scientific citations here: https://hvmn.com/blog/training/muscle-recovery-essential-to-your-next-workout