The Importance Of Rest Days
(6-8 minute read)We are often lead to believe that training as hard as you can as often as you can will give you the best results. We hear quotes like 'The more, the better' and 'Rest days are for the weak', however, even if you are bursting with energy and motivation it is proven that more is not always better.
Rest days are as important as your training and exercise regime. In regards to sports performance and general fitness goals, such as weight loss and muscle gain, not allowing the body to rest will slow down your progression and put you at risk of injury. Which we all know can set you back months, even years depending on the severity of the injury!
Regardless of your fitness level, allowing the body to repair is a crucial aspect of training.
The main outcome or desired goal from training is typically to improve an aspect of the body, whether that is improving your flexibility, cardiovascular fitness, muscular strength, power or size. All of these types of training require the body to be pushed beyond previous limitations, the body responds to this exertion by regenerating cells to be stronger, faster or more flexible than before. Without rest, regeneration does not occur.
Keep in mind 'rest' does not have to be a full day of doing nothing, rest can involve exercise at a lower intensity and shorter duration than what the body is used to. For example, you may run for 1 hour at 70% intensity on a training day and on your rest day you walk for 30 minutes at 20% intensity and incorporate a stretching routine to finish.
Listed below are 4 key benefits of rest days:
1. Reduced risk of injury
Resting plays a crucial role in performing exercises safely. When your body is in a fatigued state you may not necessarily feel overworked, however, you’re more likely to slip out of form, drop a weight, or take a wrong step.
Overtraining also exposes your muscles to repetitive stress and strain. This increases the chance of an overuse injury, such as tendonitis, which can end up forcing you to remove certain exercises or stop training all together until the injury is manageable.
2. Enhanced Performance
When your body and mind has not rested adequately, it can be hard to stay motivated during workouts. For example, you will notice this lack of motivation when trying to execute that last repetition or run for that last lap. Beginning a workout motivated and with a positive mindset and will always help your performance - and these factors are heavily related to how rested you are!
3. Quality Sleep
Exercising regularly can lead to an overproduction of energy-boosting hormones called adrenaline and cortisol. If you are overproducing these hormones it can drastically affect your sleep and the quality of your rest during sleep.
Keep in mind that regular exercise can also improve your sleep, as long as you're not overtraining or overproducing cortisol. Every body reacts differently to training, so in certain cases overproduction of these hormones may be very difficult, whereas for others it may be easy. Resting will always help to level out your hormones - so prioritise quality rest!
4. Healing and Recovery
Taking a 'rest day' does not mean doing literally no exercise for that day. It is encouraged that you continue to exercise, but at a much lower intensity to your typical workouts. For example, your rest day could involve light cardio and stretching or lifting weights at 60% intensity. Rest is especially important for repairing muscle cells, and these incremental repairs improve muscular performance over time.
Microscopic tears are being created in your muscle tissue every workout and they repair to overcome the stresses put on them. The healing process results in stronger and higher performing muscle fibres, however, your muscle cells can only repair themselves during rest!