By Naomi Rabon, NW Fitness Team Trainer
It is so hard to take a rest day, isn’t it? Especially when you’re super motivated, momentum is high, you’re making – and seeing – progress, and you feel unstoppable. You want to just keep that train rolling full steam ahead. There is nothing getting in your way now!
Except…that darn dreaded rest day (ugh)!
FOUR LETTER WORD: R-E-S-T
Here is what can go through our minds when we need to take a rest day, whether it’s scheduled or just much-needed.
• “I’ll feel so lazy and unproductive if I don’t exercise for an entire day!”
• “What if I lose my motivation, my exercise mojo, and don’t feel like exercising after my rest day?”
• If I don’t exercise for a whole day, I’ll get fat, or lose muscle, or lose my progress.”
• “No days off!”
• “I need to do something. If I don’t exercise, I’ll be bored and want to snack all day!”
How do I know this? Because these thoughts have gone through my mind and the words have come out of my mouth on more than one occasion in the past. But I have also – on more than one occasion – felt the mental and physical toll it can take on you when you don’t take either a weekly scheduled rest day or a much-needed unscheduled rest day.
HOW CAN YOU TELL?
Here’s how you know your body and mind need a rest/recovery day:
• You feel exhausted and fatigued more than usual and/or almost all the time.
• You have problems focusing and putting thoughts together; your brain feels “mushy.”
• You sleep later (or could easily sleep later if it wasn’t for your pesky alarm); nap more often or feel the need to nap; go to sleep earlier; “crash hard” and sleep like a rock (not than any of this is a bad thing, it could just be an indicator that your body is tired and needs a rest/recovery day).
• You become unusually forgetful.
• You have less energy and strength than usual during your workouts.
• You find yourself not very excited about your workouts when you once looked forward to them; workouts seem to be more of a chore and bourdon than your stress-release and “me time.”
WHY WE NEED THEM
Here are 5 reasons why a little R&R can keep you going in the gym.
1. Repair Rest days give your body an opportunity to repair the damage you did during your workout. You’ve probably learned that during any weight-bearing or resistance exercise, you’re essentially tearing small holes in your muscles called “micro-tears” or “micro-trauma.” It is the repair to these micro-tears that results in either muscle growth (hypertrophy), strength in muscle fibers, or both. Without a proper period of rest for your immune system to repair and grow your muscle, you’re not going to get the benefits of your training.
2. Injury prevention Without adequate rest and recovery time for the micro-tears to repair and fully heal, guess what can happen to those micro-tears? They can become bigger than just micro-tears and grow to develop into an actual full-blown tear in your muscle or other overuse injury. Rest days prevent overuse, and this applies to both weight-lifting and cardio exercise or sports such as running. If you push too hard without a break, your muscles and joints suffer from overuse and that’s where injuries can happen.
3. Taxed/overtaxed immune system Did you know that when you exercise, your immune system is working constantly to repair damage being done to muscles, joints, tendons and ligaments? Without adequate rest and recovery, your immune system can’t catch up to all of the repairs required for your body to heal which can – you guessed it – lead to injury. This is also why we tend to be more vulnerable to catching colds and other illnesses during periods of high activity and/or steep caloric deficits (a double whammy).
4. Sleep disruption Too much exercise or “overtraining” can put your body in a constant state of restlessness with higher amounts of adrenaline and cortisol pumping through your body and keeping you on high alert, which makes a good night’s sleep hard to achieve. A good way to track this is by monitoring your resting heart rate and seeing any changes in patterns. If your resting heart rate is elevated consistently for a long period of time and you’ve been exercising for a number of days in a row, a good quality rest day or two could bring down your alertness and help give you much-needed quality sleep.
5. Sound mind, sound body In other words, rest days help to prevent mental burn-out and can reignite your excitement and drive to exercise. You and I both know how much more enjoyable workouts are when we are excited to do them. And we also know that mental fatigue can be every bit as detrimental as physical fatigue. Taking a rest day can help you recharge and look forward to your next workout!
Although we’d like to think we are superhuman, none one can, or should, workout seven days a week for weeks or months on end. And if you do, it will likely catch up to you eventually and may not be pretty when it does. If you feel like you need to do something on a rest day, you can always do light activity, such as going for a walk or hike, doing yoga or Pilates, active dynamic stretching or foam-rolling. We all need rest and recovery days, for all the mental and physical reasons listed above and probably some not listed.
Do yourself a favor and schedule in at least one rest day per week. Your mind and body will thank you!
ABOUT NAOMI RABON
One of the trainers on Nicole’s elite NW Fitness Training Team, Naomi is a certified Personal Trainer and Fitness Specialist through the National Academy of Sports Medicine. She is a NPC Figure competitor who has been involved in the health and fitness industry for over 12 years.