Don’t Underestimate Rest Days

When you’re on a roll with your training schedule, it can be tempting to push on through and train as hard and as often as you can. Rest days however, far from being the soft option for the weak-hearted, are actually just as essential a component of a good workout schedule, as your time in the gym or studio. Neglect them at your peril…

Every time you work out, you create tiny tears in your muscles, which your body then works hard to mend, resulting in stronger and more resilient muscles. If you push through and don’t allow your body the chance to repair and recover, those injuries can quickly turn into real injuries, which can cause problems and prevent you from working out at all.

When it comes to fatigue and muscle soreness, rest days are crucial. In your body, your muscles store carbohydrates in the form of glycogen. During exercise, your body breaks down glycogen to power your workout, but it’s on rest days that your body gets the chance to replenish these energy stores in time for your next session.  

Taking an essential rest day is just as important for your mind as it is your body. If you’re overtired and overworked, it’s easier to make a misstep or compromise your positioning or movement, all of which could cause injury. Making sure you have a rest day in your schedule is also important for healthy sleep habits. When you exercise you flood your body with stress hormones like adrenaline and cortisol, which are essential for giving you that energy burst and for helping you to work harder. The problem occurs when those stress hormones are constantly in your system, making you feel constantly wound up and alert; rest days give your body a break and allow you to maintain good quality sleep. 

Taking time out also allows you to stay consistent in your workouts, so that you’re not overstretched or overtired and unable to maintain the intensity you need. Going full pelt everyday can actually end up reducing your performance, whereas taking a day off can have the opposite effect, increasing energy and improving performance and endurance. The same goes for morale too; having a day or two off a week means you’re less likely to get despondent and ensures your appetite for working out is maintained.  

Depending on the type of exercise you do, aim to have a rest day every 3-5 days and if it works for you, try and incorporate some gentle stretching on those days too.