Why are rest days important? How many rest days should you have? Do you really need to have a rest day?
These are questions you might have heard, or that you might have even asked yourself. When you’re trying to achieve physical results or to make progress, it might seem as though rest days are a waste of your valuable time. Trust us, they aren’t.
Rest days are an essential part of any training program, regardless of whether your preference is weight training, high-intensity workouts or marathon running. These are a few reasons why it’s so important to balance your training with rest.
What are rest days?
A rest day is a day where you take a break from training and allow your body time to recover. Rest days are an important part of your overall recovery plan, alongside rehabilitation. If you want better results from the gym, you better believe rest days are part of that plan!
Why are rest days so important?
It might sound strange, but rest days are often when your body does a lot of work! This is the time when your body begins to replenish its energy stores and when it gets to work repairing the muscle tissue used during your workouts. This is an essential part of the process to help your muscles grow bigger and stronger.
While it might seem like rest days are wasted time that you could be used for training, they are essential for continued performance. There are lots of reasons why you should make room in your training schedule for rest days:
Rest days can reduce the risk of injury
When you exercise, you are placing stress on your muscle and bone tissue. This leads your body to increase cell turnover and to rebuild stronger than it was. If you continue to place stress on your body without resting, it doesn’t get time to repair properly, which can leave you more prone to inflammation or to injuries such as shin splints or stress fractures.
In addition to your rest days, if you are training two days in a row, you can try to target a different muscle area with the workouts you are doing. You’ll find the programs in the Sweat app are planned out to work different parts of the body on different days. This is to give muscle groups a chance to recover properly, helping you to come back stronger for the next one!
Rest days can keep you motivated
Starting a new workout program can be exciting and sometimes you feel so motivated that you can’t wait to start and get each workout done. While it’s great to be eager, try to keep your training to a schedule rather than squeezing too much into your week.
Trying to do too much, too fast can not only put additional strain on your body but it can burn out your focus as well. You might find your motivation level dropping and before you know it, your workouts have become less enjoyable. Think about if you ate the same meal every single day, there is a good chance that you would become bored with it and eventually dread eating it again. The same principle can apply to your training.
Keeping to a regular schedule and incorporating rest days into your workout plan makes it easier to concentrate on the workouts you are doing. You’ll find this can also help with performance, something that can also contribute to your motivation level.
Rest days are important for better sleep
During your sleep is when your body starts to repair muscle tissue and balance your hormone levels. What you may not know is that rest days can contribute to a better night’s sleep. When you are exercising frequently or every day, your body may increase the production of stress hormones. This can affect your ability to wind down properly, leading to restlessness when you try to sleep.
Rest is important to help keep your hormone balance in check, so make room for regular rest days in your calendar.
Rest days can help support your immune system
Putting your body under physical stress (even the good kind of stress) during a workout means your immune system has to activate to begin repairs. When this is happening constantly, your immune system has a hard time keeping up with all of the repairs it needs to make. That can increase your risk of injury or of becoming sick because your immune system is struggling to keep up with demand.
You might get tempted to skip your rest day, especially when you’re so focused on achieving your goals. But think of it this way — when you’re really tired, you struggle to do things you could normally do quite easily, right? It’s a similar principle. If your body is physically tired, you might notice increased muscle soreness or a decrease in your performance. Take that as a sign you need to R-E-S-T!
Having a rest day also gives you a chance to have a mental break from training, something we may not always prioritise.
How often should you have a rest day?
This is a great question, unfortunately, the answer isn’t quite as straightforward. It can depend on your fitness level — for example, beginners may need to prioritise rest days slightly more. Some exercise programs are more physically demanding than others, and everyone’s fitness level and body will be slightly different. It’s all about balancing your training and having rest days as well!
In the Sweat app, for example, each program balances resistance sessions with some cardio and rehabilitation sessions. You’ll notice that all programs have recommended rehabilitation sessions and rest days to allocate in your planner!
At the very least, we would recommend allocating yourself one day of rest per week. Now, a rest day doesn’t have to mean laying on the couch, doing absolutely nothing but snacking and binge-watching TV (unless that’s how you want to spend your rest day — we get it!). You may prefer to have active rest days.
What are active rest days?
An active rest day means doing some light activity in place of your normal training. You might like to try some different active rest day activities, like taking a slow walk, doing a gentle yoga class (restorative or Hatha-style yoga can be great) or taking your dog to the park. How active you want to be really depends on how intense your training is, and how your body is holding up.
Don’t feel guilty about taking rest days!
When you’re trying to balance training with rest, it is really important to pay attention to your body. It will tell you if you’re overdoing it and you need to slow down. Fatigue, aching muscles and a loss of appetite can all be a sign that you might be overtraining and you need to take some rest days to bring yourself back into balance. Slow it down and take those cues your body is giving you. Keep doing your rehabilitation and foam rolling sessions and remember that rest is never wasted time!
Credit to Sweat!