Staying active and getting regular exercise is the most effective way to live a healthy and better quality of life. But how many rest days a week one takes during their exercise-training routine will determine their joint health, their resiliency to their workout routine, and even their overall performance.
Rest days are just as important as any intense exercise day.
To be honest, a successful fitness routine isn’t complete without rest days.
Taking periodic breaks allows your body to properly recover and repair from the physical stress obtained from any workout you’ve performed. It’s an imperative part of progress, regardless of your fitness level. Otherwise, skipping rest days can lead to overtraining, burnout, and more commonly, injury.
These are some of the reasons why rest days are so advantageous.
1. Allows time for recovery
Discordant to normative belief, rest days aren’t about doing nothing or laying down watching Netflix all day. Proper recovery is supposed to be a time that the beneficial effects of exercise takes place. Specifically, rest is essential for muscle growth.
Exercise creates imperceptible tears in your muscle tissue. But getting adequate rest leads specific cells called fibroblasts to repair the damage. Fibroblast helps the tissue heal and grow more durable.
Another important process that happens on a cellular level during rest is your body replenishing glycogen levels which are expended during exercise. Your muscles store carbohydrates in the form of glycogen. During exercise, your body breaks down glycogen to fuel your workout. Having proper recovery allows your body to restore the glycogen used from any previous workout/s within your muscles.
2. Prevents muscle fatigue
Rest is essential for avoiding exercise-induced fatigue. Don’t forget, exercise depletes your muscles glycogen levels. If glycogen isn’t replaced, your muscles may fatigue and you may experience moderate to severe soreness.
Plus, your muscles need glycogen to function. Muscle glycogen provides a primary source of metabolic fuel for your muscles. Your muscles require lots of energy to perform daily functions.
3. Reduces risk of injury
Routinely resting your body is indispensable for staying safe during exercise. When your body is exhausted or heavily fatigued, you’re more prone to take a wrong step, accidentally dropping a weight on yourself, or even losing your balance and falling.
Overtraining can also expose your muscles to repetitive stress and strain. This increases the risk of chronic pain and injury.
4. Improves performance
A lack of adequate rest can make daily tasks feel overwhelming. Now imagine trying to challenge yourself. For example, you might be less motivated to do an extra rep on the bench press or run another minute on the treadmill.
Even if you try to push yourself, overtraining ultimately decreases your performance. You may experience reduced energy levels, slow reaction times, and extreme lack of focus.
How to do rest days right
An ideal rest day looks different for each individual. It depends on the persons intensity level during exercise and frequency of training. However, there are general advisements for incorporating rest days in different workouts.
For the most part, you don’t need to rest for light cardio. This includes leisurely walking or light bodyweight exercises. These exercises can be performed every day, unless discouraged by your doctor.
On the other hand, if you’re doing moderate or vigorous aerobic workouts (running, HIIT, etc), rest days are crucial. For optimal recovery, a rest day should be taken every three-to-five days. If you part-take in vigorous cardio on a regular basis, you’ll want to take more frequent rest days.
To determine when you should rest, consider the CDC’s recommended weekly exercise duration; 150 minutes moderate and 75 minutes vigorous.
These recommendations can help you plan your rest days more efficiently. For example, if you preferred to do three days of 50-minute moderate cardio activity, plan time to rest to complement those days you will be training.
Running is an amazing form of cardio that provides many benefits. Like helping to build strong bones, strengthening muscles, and improving cardiovascular fitness.
For beginner runners, it may be best to start light running three days a week. Running too much too soon can lead to fatigue, and in some cases, injury.
On non-training days, let yourself recover and perform low-demanding activities. Going on a short walk, stretching, even meditation are great ways to rest on non-training days.
An effective strength training regimen usually incorporates rest days by rotating the muscles worked.
Typically, after training a specific muscle group, let it rest for 24-48 hours before working it out again. This provides adequate time for your muscles to fully repair and heal.
On the days you’re resting the muscle group you most recently worked, train different muscles. It’s important to train opposing muscles to keep your body balanced.
A balanced strength training regimen looks like:
Monday can be leg day, Tuesday can be push day (chest, shoulders, triceps), Wednesday can be active recovery, Thursday can be legs, and Friday can be pull day (back and biceps).
What to do on your rest day
Check out these directives to optimize your rest day:
Diet and protein
Since your body isn’t burning as many calories on rest days, you generally don’t require as much calories because you’re not as active. The focus shouldn’t be on any specific number of calories to withhold, simply listen to your body. The body will naturally yearn for food through satiety and hunger cues.
During your rest days, it is also important to eat enough protein. Sufficient protein intake supports muscle repair, cellular function, and many more internal activities that better recover the body.
It is recommended that active people should consume 1.2 to 2.0 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight per day.
Other important rest-day aspects to focus on:
- Carbohydrates. Consume complex carbs to restore your glycogen levels. Complex carbs are higher in nutrients and take longer to digest, leaving you fuller for longer.
- Water. It’s essential to drink enough water, even when you’re not working out. Staying hydrated prevents muscle cramps and delivers nutrients throughout your body.
- Fruits and vegetables. Fruits and veggies contain healthy carbs and essential nutrients that support recovery, such as antioxidants and fiber.
Mobility training has many benefits, one of them being an excellent way to properly recover your body. A well rounded mobility program promotes good posture, helps prevent knots and injuries, and increases range of movement in muscular and skeletal motion.
Most importantly, enhancing your mobility relieves tension associated with sedentary lifestyles and overtraining. This, coupled with the fact that our joints naturally get stiffer as we age — makes mobility training a significant component to ensure the best quality of life.
Like mobility training, low-impact exercise is a great rest day activity. Low-impact workouts help you stay active without over-stressing your body. They also let you enjoy exercise in a more relaxing way.
Examples of low-impact training:
- Tai Chi
- Slow dancing
Signs you need a rest day
If you’re experiencing some of these signs, you may need to take a break:
Sore muscles. Feeling some soreness after exercise isn’t abnormal. But when there is persistent soreness, thats a red flag. Usually meaning, your muscles haven’t fully recovered from previous workouts.
Fatigue. Are you finding yourself extremely exhausted. Sometimes for no reason at all. If you feel depleted, give your body rest.
Pain. Experiencing muscle or joint pain that doesn’t go away, might be hinting to a potential injury.
Reduced performance. If your normal daily-activities feels difficult. Things that took you 5 minutes to do, now takes 15 minutes — take a rest day.
Lets wrap it up
Regardless if you’re a beginner to fitness or seasoned athlete, routine rest is crucial for better-quality-living. It’s necessary for muscle repair, preventing injury, and overall performance.
To take full advantage of your rest days, low-impact workouts like mobility training and walking are essential when it comes to full-body recovery. These activities allow you to stay active while letting your body rest.
Letting your body rest is the best thing you can do while you’re regularly exercising, in order to improve quality of life and performance.
If you’ve been feeling more tired recently, and struggle to properly recover your body — let me throw you an effective lifeline.
Fill out my mobility form on this page and i’ll send you my “Move Better” mobility guide to help you reduce muscle & joint pain, on the house.
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