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Rest Days: More Isn’t Always Better…


Rest days? Is this REALLY even a thing?

Let’s face it: you’ve been conditioned to live in a society fueling a “go, go, go” mentality and to thrive on the concept of doing MORE.

Why? Because in our minds, MORE = BETTER!

This can be especially when it comes to exercise:

  • Exercising 2x/day = BETTER

  • Going to the gym 2x/day = BETTER!

  • Doing different workouts every day (spin, HIIT, strength training) = BETTER!

In theory, it’s easy to understand why this could make sense: exercising MORE = BETTER results. Afterall, are training more, hitting different body parts and muscle groups, trying different workout styles- all your bases are covered!

Hate to burst your hardcore workout bubble but the truth is, when it comes to exercising more does NOT equal better.

In fact, doing more does not guarantee better or faster results. It can actually have the opposite effect and prove detrimental to your overall progress, results and health.

While it is absolutely important to stay active and exercise regularly, more isn’t always better – it’s just more.

What is absolutely important? REST DAYS!

These designated days “off” are crucial to ALL well-rounded fitness programs/routines. In today’s coaches blog, you are learning how to maximize your results, progress, health, and happiness with rest days:

  • Why your body needs rest days

  • Top 5 benefits of taking rest days

  • 4 Signs you NEED a rest day


WHY YOUR BODY NEEDS REST DAYS

A rest day is a day off from your regular exercise/training routine allowing your body and mind time to recover. It’s important to note these days are ONLY beneficial if you actually rest! This means doing lighter physical activity, active recovery and things your body and mind find relaxing and enjoyable. 

Here’s why your body NEEDS rest days: your muscles actually build strength during periods of rest, not during the actual workout. Consider your workout the stimulus and the recovery period/post workout when change happens. This is exactly why doing MORE is not always better. If you are always exercising and failing to give your body enough time for rest, your muscles cannot repair and build. In this case, doing more is counterproductive because you are making it harder for your body to change and get results!


5 BENEFITS OF REST DAYS

  1. Allows Time for Recovery + Muscle Growth: Exercise produces microscopic tears in your muscles.  During rest, these tears are repaired leading to muscle growth and increased strength.  Exercise is also highly demanding on our glycogen stores (energy/fuel needed for our workouts in the form of carbohydrates).  Without rest, your body would not have the time to replenish these glycogen stores or repair damaged muscle tissues. 

  2. Prevents Muscle Pain + Soreness: Your muscles are damaged during exercise, so always doing MORE can potentially increase pain/soreness.  Allowing your body time to recover helps prevent pain and soreness.

  3. Prevents Injury: Overexercising puts repetitive stress and strain on our muscles and joints; increasing risk for injury.  Not to mention, if you’re feeling over tired, sore or fatigued, you may not keep the best form which can lead to injury. 

  4. Improves Overall Performance: Rest days are not only beneficial for improving your workout performance but also enhances your everyday routine.  You know the feeling when you don’t get enough sleep: you are irritable, cranky, sluggish, and the simplest task feels overwhelming.  Allowing your body/mind time to recover improves your results while making everyday life easier and more fulfilling. 

  5. Aids in Restful Sleep: A good workout gets you amped up, your adrenaline pumping and the sweat flowing – all good things! However, overtraining produces too much adrenaline which can have negative effects on sleep.  Taking a break from your fitness routine allows hormones to return to a normal state therefore resulting in a good night’s sleep.


HOW TO KNOW WHEN YOU NEED A REST DAY

The ideal number of rest days varies for each individual based on a few different things. Note, there is a difference between needing a rest day versus being sore, lazy and / or just not wanting to exercise. It is equally as important to listen to your body as it is to push through periods when motivating is lacking / you are feeling lazy.

  • Fitness Level: If you are a beginner, you may want to take more rest days to ensure your body has time to recover. When you first start exercising, being sore is very normal as your body adapts to an increased level of activity. It is OK to continue exercising when sore as movement helps blood flow and oxygen circulate through muscles and tissues, so they don’t “lock up”.  Comparatively, advanced individuals may want less rest days. It is important to listen to your body, checking in with energy levels and/or mood.

  • Training Style: Our bodies respond to HIIT (cardio-based workouts) and strength training (weights) differently so always keep that in mind when planning rest days.  When performing HIIT (higher intensity, faster paced intervals), it can be beneficial to follow that up the next day with low intensity activity like walking or doing yoga. When strength training, it is beneficial to alternate large muscle groups to avoid overuse/fatigue. For example, upper body exercises one day and lower body exercises the next day.  At Results Fitness, all exercise programs are designed to avoid overuse and programmed accordingly. This helps you recover more effectively while preventing injury.

  • Schedule: Trying to fit in MORE workouts into a tight schedule increases stress and overall burnout.  When planning your fitness routine, we always recommend prioritizing strength training workouts first, aiming for 2-4x/week, and then supplementing with HIIT / cardio when available.  Including stress relieving workouts such as an outdoor walk, a yoga class or swimming may help to improve overall mental and physical health. 


WHAT TO DO ON REST DAYS

Deciding what to do on your rest day requires some individual introspection.  It is important to choose activities you find both enjoyable and relaxing.  Sometimes a day on the couch binging a Netflix series or reading a good book is exactly what’s need to fuel recovery. Other times you might opt for active recovery-based activities like foam rolling, a gentle yoga class, outdoor hike, massage, or swimming.  Spending time with family/friends or meditating are also some great ways to destress and give yourself a mental break.

You can also maximize your rest day by prioritizing your nutrition! By using your non-workout time to meal prep for the week, you are aligning healthy habits both and outside the gym. To maximize your results and recovery, nutrition is equally as important as exercise as a well-balanced diet will aid in your body’s ability to repair and recover.   


4 SIGNS YOUR BODY NEEDS REST

Need help understanding your body’s signaling it’s time for some R&R? Here are 4 signs it’s time to rest:

1.  Mood Changes: Increased irritability, mood swings or overall sluggishness may indicate a rest day is needed.

2. Constant Muscle Soreness/Pain:  Although it is a normal part of exercising to experience soreness, persistent muscle pain/soreness may indicate your muscles have not had a chance to fully recover between workouts or indicative of an overuse injury. If you are always sore, you cannot exercise at optimal performance: executing movements properly and to the best of your ability. This can be detrimental to your overall progress. 

3. Poor Sleep/Insomnia:  Overtraining may cause an increase in hormone levels such as adrenaline and cortisol; making it difficult to get a good night’s sleep. 

4. Decreased Daily Performance:  If finishing a workout feels like climbing a mountain and/or your daily routine feels super challenging, it may be time to take a rest day.  Also, if you’re noticing you are no longer seeing or feeling the progress and results you’re seeking, it may be time to take a break and/or change up your fitness routine. 

When it comes to rest days, there is no “one size fits all” approach.  It is important you listen to your body by checking in with your mood, energy levels, stress levels, and muscle soreness.  Beginner’s may need more rest days as their bodies find a comfortable fitness routine that works for them.  Advanced individuals may require less rest days based on their fitness goals and training intensity.  Remember, there is a difference between needing rest days versus being sore, lazy and not wanting to exercise. When taking rest days, include relaxing activities you enjoy! If you are experiencing any of the 4 warning signs listed above, take a rest day ASAP and check in with your coach/trainer to modify your exercise plan to help you keep living happy, healthy and strong! 


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