The 3Cs are back with us to chat about why it is so important to give your body time to recover. Let’s delve deep into the question: Just how important are rest days?!
Whatever you are training for, whether it be a specific sport, strength goal or to simply keep fit, taking days off is often a lot harder than expected.
Exercise makes you feel good; it releases stress, gives you time away from work and keeps you feeling fit and healthy. As training starts to become a core part of your routine, taking time away from it might feel harder and harder, especially when you’re seeing progress in your training.
Maybe time away makes you feel guilty, or maybe the motivation of seeing friends start to share their PB’s and workouts on social media, is too much to say no to and you find yourself back training for days or weeks in a row.
Well, there is a reason there are rest days scheduled into every training programme, and if you’ve been avoiding them so far, then it’s time to start adding them back in.
Rest is when your body repairs itself after all of the demanding hours of training you have put on it for the past couple days. You will benefit physically and mentally from regularly scheduled rest days, and here’s just a few of the reasons why rest days are so important:
Whenever you train, you create tiny microscopic tears in your muscles, and it’s these that make you grow stronger. Your body needs time to repair these tears, to be able to handle the same workout and more the next time you train.
How long it takes for your body to repair your muscles will depend on many factors, such as intensity of the workout, your age, genetics and current fitness level. As a general rule of thumb it’s good to get at least one full rest day a week, along with a couple of lower intensity workouts.
If you don’t give your body the chance to repair the tears you create, then they will wear down more and more. Overuse can then cause sprains and inflammation to the muscle. If you look at bodybuilders, they will often split muscle groups across the week. This will ensure each major muscle group gets a good few days of rest, giving plenty of time to repair and strengthen, ready for the next workout.
The same goes for bones, and this is especially true for runners who put their legs under a lot of stress, absorbing the shock of their bodyweight with every stride. Bones too, need time to repair, strengthen and prepare themselves to handle the same intensity again and again. Stress fractures and shin splints are very common in runners who overtrain and don’t factor in enough recovery or rest day time.
As mentioned, the reason we tend to overtrain, or avoid resting, is because we love training or are focused on achieving a particular goal. However, like with everything in life, if you do something too much it can start to lose it’s charm and you run the risk of falling out of love with it!
Distance makes the heart grow fonder, right? The day of recovery, or a lighter-training day focusing on something a bit different, will help you appreciate your workouts.
It is also very easy to get demotivated as you start to plateau and stop seeing results in your training. This will happen sooner than you think, as you are not allowing your body enough time to repair itself with enough strength to hit bigger numbers next time!
This will change person to person, however, as a general rule it is good to have at least 1 full ‘inactive’ rest day a week, or 2-3 if you are new to exercise.
As well as inactive days, you can factor in ‘active’ rest days too, which challenge your body's different energy systems whilst giving your main training focus a rest. For example, if you’re mainly strength training, then factor in a gentle jog or bike ride into your week to give your body cardiovascular fitness as well as muscular.
You may find you feel a lot hungrier on rest days than those when you are training. Intense exercise can suppress your appetite, so when your body finally ‘switches off’ of the sympathetic nervous system and goes back on to parasympathetic, all of your primary functions like hunger are suddenly back and louder than ever!
Your body will also be needing all the help it can get in repairing the micro-tears in your muscles. So make sure to feed it quality fuel, high in protein and carbohydrate to give fast-acting repair and start storing up resources for the next workout.
Make sure you check out our intro to Chloe, Claire + Carl here, and stay tuned for more from these powerhouses of knowledge!