We all can agree that taking adequate rest between training is an important part of any exercise routine. If you follow along when I share my weekly workouts then you probably know I take at least one active recovery/rest day per week, typically mid-week, and I almost always follow an intense day with a lighter/less volume day.
Sometimes it’s easy to get caught up in a routine or fitness mindset. We think more equals better and we push ourselves to go as hard as possible 7 days/week. But more doesn’t equal better. In fact, it can do more harm than good. The physical stress that exercise places on our bodies needs to be balanced with adequate rest and recovery otherwise we’ll end up setting ourselves back or worse…injuring ourselves.
Today I’m sharing a few reasons why we all need to take rest days. Whether you are training for a marathon or trying to gain muscle, allowing sufficient time to recover is an essential part of the process.
1. Allow your muscles enough time to repair and regenerate
Exercise, in particular strength training, causes microscopic tears in your muscles. Resting allows your muscles and tissues time to rebuild and grow stronger. Intense training can also be very taxing on the central nervous system, so giving your body time to recover can prevent you from overtraining.
For strength training, the ACSM recommends training each major muscle group two or three days per week and leaving at least 48 hours for recovery between each training session. I usually aim to place at least one day between working similar muscle groups, but this can vary depending on which muscles have been worked (larger muscles tend to need more time to recover than smaller ones).
Not allowing your muscles enough time to rest and rebuild can lead to many negative outcomes, including overuse injuries, strains, and inflammation. I have dealt with so many injuries that I’m sure were due, in part, to pushing myself too much, repetitive exercises, and lack of rest. I continued to demand the same physical performance of my body day after day until I inevitably got injured or had to stop due to some nagging pain. It wasn’t until I started to space out my activities and restructure my workouts to allow my muscles time to rest and heal that I started to see a difference.
2. Stay inspired and energized
If you start to feel unmotivated to workout then it could mean that you need to take some time off or mix things up. Doing the same thing day in and day out can get pretty old and monotonous. Most of the time I really look forward to working out, but if I’m headed to the gym and I begin to feel like it’s going to be torture, I will turn around or opt for something else like a walk or a good meal. I think the key is to stay in tune with your body and learn to recognize when you need to cut yourself a break. If I miss my usual sweat session then I’m usually itching to jump back in after a day or two. And if I’m still feeling unmotivated then I might try to switch up my workouts – take a class, find a workout buddy, or get outside!
3. Reminder to take care of yourself
If there’s ONE thing being injured has taught me it’s that the recovery process is just as important as your actual training. This means, you need to balance quality workouts equally with rest and recovery. My acupuncturist used to remind me: “Focusing on recovery now will mean more workouts and more miles later.” If you don’t take steps now to help your body heal, then your not going to be able to expect much of it later.
Taking time to recover is a chance to focus on yourself. This may look different for everyone. For me, it’s a chance to stretch, foam roll, get a massage, take a walk, or have an epsom salt bath. I love wearing compression socks (I’m partial to the CEP calf sleeves) after a run or intense workout and I like to roll out my feet and legs with a tennis ball. And I almost always supplement with L-Glutamine after a workout since it helps speed up recovery.
Some of my favorite recovery gear:
What are you favorite ways to recover? How many rest days do you take per week?