When you’re smashing your personal training goals, the last thing you think about doing is taking a rest day.
It can be tempting go out all-out on your training, for fear of losing the momentum and motivation you’ve built up.
For many, taking a rest might seem like a treat for the un-dedicated, but is this really the case?
In this piece we look into rest days and weigh up if they should be made a regular part of your fitness regime.
Every time you hit the gym for a workout, whether it’s for a session on the treadmill, weight training or a HIIT session, you create microscopic tears in your muscles.
This essentially enables your body to adapt, become stronger and more resilient to training.
Now, small microscopic tears are nothing to worry about, they’re in fact part of training. However, when you overdo your training or cut back on your rest, these micro injuries can easily turn into major injuries that prevent you from training altogether.
This damage isn’t just limited to an increased risk of spraining an ankle or pulling a muscle, there is a condition known as Overtraining Syndrome (OTS) which refers to the stress done to your body’s central nervous system by training too hard without enough rest.
If this OTS becomes too severe, your strength and conditioning gains will fade away, while your immune system will suffer and your mood will go downhill. Instead of taking a rest day, you might find you need to go weeks, if not months, without the gym, depending on how much you’ve overtrained.
To avoid this and to ensure you get the most out of the time you spend in the gym, make sure you give your body enough rest to allow it to recover and strengthen. It’s an effective way to reduce your risk of injury.
Rest days keep you going
Consistency is a key element of any successful fitness regime. Hitting the gym with high intensity workouts is great, but it won’t count for much unless you are able to maintain it over a significant period of time.
Progress with fitness is made by moving in the right direction in a controlled way, with steady steps.
Going at it hard for a month, burning yourself out and taking a month off training isn’t the best approach, especially if you’re looking to make fitness part of your lifestyle.
One of the easiest ways to lose focus while training is to lose your morale and give up amid feelings of irritation and one of the easiest ways to end up there is by overtraining to the point where you dread your next workout, all while not giving yourself enough time to recover.
If you overtrain to the point of breaking down, not only will you be unable to train for a while physically, but mentally you will also see your mood and motivation levels drop.
While an eagerness to hit the gym is great, too much of it can harm your training rather than boost it.
Muscle is built while resting
You might have heard the phrase “muscle isn’t built in the gym” which on the face of it, might not make sense.
However, there’s a reason why this is an oft-repeated mantra in the fitness world. Weight training is just the beginning of the muscle-building process. While it might not seem productive to not be working your muscles for them to grow, during rest you break down your muscle tissue so it can adapt to the newly introduced strain and grow back stronger.
For the muscles to actually grow back stronger, they need to be given sufficient rest and recovery to maximise the process.
Depending on what muscles you have worked previously, we suggest if you want to workout the following day, try working on a different muscle group so that you are giving the muscle you’ve previously worked enough time to rest.
When should you rest?
How much rest you need depends largely on the individual person, but it can also go by how you are feeling at any given time.
A good rule of thumb is that you should take a rest day after each day of intense training, with plenty of sleep, to avoid overtraining yourself.
Full body powerlifting style workouts commonly follow a pattern of three training days a week, with a rest day between each.
For more bodybuilding focused split workouts, which target one body part per day, its commonplace to train up to five days in a row, as long as each body part is only worked once or twice per week.
If you find you’ve overdone it, allow your body a week or two off training before starting back up again. Equally, if you’ve been training hard and consistently for a fair amount of time, a week long break can have its benefits.
If you pick up an injury, you’ll just have to avoid straining the affected limb until it is fully recovered, whether that’s weeks or months.
There is plenty of evidence to suggest that rest days play a key role in supporting muscle gain and healthy living targets.
Rather than halting your progress, they are vital to giving your body the rest and recuperation time it needs to heal and repair itself after workouts.
If you have been unsure about rest days in the past, or simply don’t make use of them, they are well worth adding to your regime.