I’m bad at resting. I take at least one dance class every day of the week but Thursday, and that means Thursdays are core workout days. I use the excuse that improv class isn’t that intense…except when it is. My doctor recently reminded me that I need to make sure that I am incorporating rest and recovery into my weeks.
So what is a rest day?
Rest days can take on several forms. If you’re truly exhausted, you can take a total rest day. A day that only has you going for an easy walk or even just putting your feet up during the time you normally go to the gym. It means doing your normal, non-fitness activity but not straining your muscles. You can also take an active rest day that involves more activity like a gentle yoga sequence or some active stretching.
Why take a rest day?
There are more reasons than you might think to take a rest day and they are both physical and psychological. I’ve gathered the 5 top reasons that rest days are important.
– Injury prevention
The number one reason to take a rest day is for injury prevention. It is particularly important for preventing overuse injuries. If you are repeating the same motions every day without a break, your body can break. This is when injuries like shin splints and tennis elbow happen.
– Mental Rejuvenation
If your workout isn’t giving you the rush of endorphins it usually does – it feels like actual punishment, not the hurts til it’s over then it feels good feeling – your mind needs a break. To get the full mental benefit, you need to believe that you can take the day off. Trust me, one or two days of resting will not cause your muscles to atrophy or progress to be lost.
– Muscle repair
Muscles get bigger and stronger because as you workout you create little tears that have to be fixed. If you are always using your muscles and pushing them further, you aren’t giving them time to rebuild and actually get stronger. Who wouldn’t want that?
– Better Sleep
Over training can affect your sleep, and not in a good way. It can actually cause restlessness from keeping your body in a state of high alert. Taking a day off can help you reset your sleep schedule and get back to restful night’s sleep.
– Exhaustion Prevention
This goes hand in hand with over training interrupting sleep. If you’re not sleeping well and training intensely, you’re a prime candidate for exhaustion. And no one wants that. Taking a day off will help you avoid exhaustion because you are actively protecting yourself against it.
– Do not worry!
I can’t stress enough that taking a day or two off won’t hinder your training. Letting your body recover is how you get stronger. On my rest days (ok fine also on days where I have a particularly challenging workout), I love to take an Epsom salt bath so my muscles can soak up all the magnesium and I can relax uninterrupted. I also love a good deep stretch or a restorative yoga class when I want an active recovery day. Both of those let me rest and recover both mentally and physically.
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How do you spend your rest days?
Mary Fran Wiley is a well known gluten-free and positive living blogger from Chicago where she writes Curiouser and Curiouser, maintains the Chronic Positivity Project, and has been featured in Allergic Living Magazine, Care2.com and Today.com.