How often do you train or exercise? How much do you rest? I bring this up because today is a my “rest” day. I usually take one day off from exercise to rest and recover. It is normally a Saturday or Sunday depending on the family schedule.
I had a nice 5 mile run yesterday so I feel pretty good taking today off. Plus the fact that it is a rainy day, I’ve been doing lots of procrastinated paperwork AND due to a very unfortunate plumbing/flooding issue we can’t run water in our house. A perfect reason to put your head on the pillow!
Rest is an often forgotten yet critically important factor in making any sort of gain with exercise, training, and practice. When I say rest I mean really rest. I know it’s hard for some of you (us), especially if you are reading this you are likely an active person. So, while my rest day might be a long walk, walk the dogs or light yoga, it means we can’t let that “active rest” turn into another intense, crazy workout.
Muscles need time to heal and grow. Energy needs time to replenish. And when learning, your brain needs time to consolidate new information. It’s the time to let all of these things come together and get you ready for your next session.
Benefits from exercise do not come from exercising. Benefits come from your body’s adaptation to exercise. That’s a novel thought! When your body adapts to its exercise, whether HIIT, intense cardio, long runs or strength training, you see improvements in your energy metabolism and cardiovascular system. Strength training adaptations include structural changes like bigger muscles, and better nervous system recruitment of muscles. These adaptations will not occur until the body has a chance to rest and repair.
This is important to understand, or else you may take a ‘more is better’ approach and think that if you exercise as much as you can (or as hard as you can) every day you will get results faster. In reality, you would be setting yourself up for over-training and possibly start suffering from injuries.
So, I work out six days a week. Some days I work out more than once a day if I teach more than one class that day. Therefore, my hamstrings, IT Band, glutes, knees and joints need a day off! As I have gotten older that is more evident. I have also begun to enjoy having a “mental” day off too. Generally speaking, the harder a workout you have, the longer you need to rest. Obviously. If you ran a marathon this weekend you need to give those legs a break! They need some recovery time.
I’m not the only person tauting the benefits of rest. I will cite a recent article on the subject:
Exercise and activity is not the same thing. Exercise is activity done for the purpose of making some sort of improvement. So if it’s physical fitness you are after, exercise need to push your limits. It is supposed to be exhausting! Therefore, you need rest from exercise.
It seems that after moderate exercise it takes only a few days for muscles to recover to their full strength. But for intense efforts it might be quite a bit longer 2. By many estimates, it takes about 7-10 days after very high intensity training for a muscle to get back 100% of it’s strength and show any gains.
However, working out the same muscles again a couple times throughout the weekdoesn’t seem to slow your recovery 3. So if you have one or two hard workouts a week, and the rest are moderate, you should be fine. But it’s probably not a good idea to go full out many times a week! Especially after a full out performance like a marathon. It’s probably a good idea to take a week off after this type of event.
Most training programs recommend a day or two off per week. To be sure you are getting enough rest, It’s a good idea to take two days off in a row each week (five days on, two days off) if you can schedule it. And to be sure you don’t over-train, be sure to only work at your highest intensity a couple times a week (strength training to exhaustion), and tone it down slightly the rest of the week.
As mentioned, activity isn’t as intense as exercise. See: Activity vs. Exercise. You don’t really need to rest from general activity unless it was intense. It’s still okay to go for a walk or even casual sports the day after a workout.
Everyone is different and we all have different levels of fitness, work out at different intensities and at different types of activities. All of these things will dictate what works for you, your body and fitness goals. General guidelines can look something like this:
- Light to moderate activity: not much rest needed at all… a good sleep. (I’m thinking an easy run, bike ride, moderate aerobics class, yard work)
- Moderate to high: just take the next day off, or do a lighter activity. (Cross train after a hard run, crazy Turbo Kick class, strong bike ride, bootcamp or weight workout or class)
- Extreme : take a week off, or at least take it easy for a week. Get back into things gradually the following week. (marathon, triathlon, extreme sport activity)
These guidelines are meant for pretty fit individuals. Some may need more rest if you are out of shape, and, on the other hand, you may get away with less rest if you are young and/or exceptionally fit.
The day of rest goes back to the beginning of our world a we know it. If it was necessary back then, I’m not about to argue with that! I hope you, too, can schedule a day of rest into your week and enjoy it “guilt free” and know that it is a part of your fitness regimen.
How hard did you work this week? Are you taking a day off? Do you feel guilty? Don’t my dogs look pitiful?