I’ve always taken rest days but they haven’t always been taken out of choice or without the feeling of guilt creeping into my subconscious. I often told myself that I didn’t deserve a day off and thought that any break from exercise would negatively impact the goals I’d set. Recently however, I’ve come to learn the value in taking rest days for both my physical and mental health.
I think if I understood sooner why taking time out to rest was so important, it would have helped me to take a step back more often. Below you’ll find 4 reasons why rest is so important for you and your training regime.
1. It makes you stronger!
Exercising, particularly when it involves high intensity and resistance training, breaks the muscle tissue down in your body. By resting, you can help to effectively rebuild this back up so you’re ready to give it your all in the next session. Performance levels can dip if you don’t allow your muscles sufficient time to repair and as a result, you might never reach your peak level of performance.The quicker and more efficiently your body can recover, the better the next session and the more likely you are to reach those goals!
2. Prevents injury
If you do high intensity training or take part in a high impact sport, you’re constantly putting pressure on your body. Stress fractures, muscle strains and joint problems are all common occurrences for those who over-train. Remember, if you injure yourself you’ll be out of action and resting for a lot longer than you want to be. Never underestimate the importance of a good stretch, a decent refuel meal and a day taken off training to help the body repair and recover.
3. Creates a more sustainable training programme
If you’re relentlessly pushing yourself in your training and not giving yourself a day off to recover in the week, then chances are you’re heading towards burn out. I’ve also found that giving myself at least a week off a couple of times a year is worth doing, as it really helps to kick start you back into your training and gives you a better perspective on things.
I’ve written a blog post dedicated to creating a training plan that is sustainable here. 😊
4. It’s the kind thing to do for your overall health
Your sleeping pattern, immune system and hormonal balance can all be affected by over-training so, try to be mindful of your overall health and not just your physical state or your goals when planning your weekly training schedule.
- Sleep – Too much exercise can put your body into overdrive and can even increase your resting heart rate. This can make it difficult to switch off at night so, if your sleeping pattern is out of whack, consider how much rest you’re getting in and whether this is enough.
- Immune System – Whilst a healthy amount of exercise can boost the immune system, over training, particularly at an intense level can weaken immune function.
- Hormones – Hormonal balance can be affected as stress hormones (norepinephrine and cortisol) are released. For females, amenorrhea (absence of periods) can also occur and can have a long-term effect on fertility so it’s not to be taken lightly!
- Mental fatigue – No one wants to feel and look like a walking zombie all the time so, take a bit of time out to show your body some kindness and compassion. The chances of you feeling pretty rubbish if you don’t ever listen to your body are high.
As I mentioned, training beyond your body’s ability to recover can affect performance, your health and your ability to stick to your training regime long term. I would suggest the following to establish a better balance:
What to do
- Set out a training schedule that breaks up your rest day/s within the week so you have plenty of time to recover.
- If you go on holiday, ease back on your training – it’s the perfect time to relax and focus on other things outside of your training schedule. Train if you fancy it but don’t stress if you’d rather spend time chilling!
- Give yourself 5 days to a week off a couple of times a year to allow yourself time to re-evaluate your training and spark new motivation. Do not feel guilty for this – a week when compared to a whole year is nothing!
- Rest up big time if you’re injured or ill. Trust me when I say it will only make things worse if you push yourself before you’ve fully recovered.
Moving your body every day is important, and even on rest days I still think everyone should make a conscious effort to move in some way (particularly if you have a desk job). Get out, walk in the park and slow down a little sometimes. If you struggle to motivate yourself to workout at all then don’t worry, I’ve got plenty more tips up my sleeve coming your way soon!
As with many things, always keep in mind that every person is different. Try not to compare your rest requirements and needs with others and make a conscious effort to listen to your body and your intuition, rather than following someone else’s training pattern. Challenge yourself when the time is right and if you’re anything like me, learn to take a step back when it’s needed.