When it comes to hitting the gym, there are just about a million different mantras people use to get motivated. I’ve seen and heard statements like “never give up” and “the only bad workout is the one that didn’t happen” more times than I can count. In theory, I love anything that gets people up and moving. In practice, I realize that this mindset isn’t always the healthiest. The truth is that having a rest day is a critical part of any training plan.
Why should you rest?
If you don’t allow your body to recover regularly, you increase the risk of muscle soreness, sleeplessness, illness, and injury. While it may seem that taking breaks will set you back, overtraining can actually lead to a loss of strength and overall performance. Rest days are also important for your mental health. Properly timed breaks in training can help prevent anxiety related to your training goals, mood swings, and burnout. Don’t ruin your passion for health and fitness by pushing too hard.
When should you rest?
How often you take a rest day depends on several factors. If you are new to exercising or simply starting a new program, you may need to rest every third day. If you have more experience, taking one rest day a week may be enough. Other factors include muscle soreness, fatigue, and illness. If you really don’t feel well, slow down and take care of yourself. Those running shoes, weights, and yoga mats will still be there when you’re well enough to use them safely.
How should you rest?
What you do on your rest day should vary based on the intensity and frequency of the workouts prior to it. If you’ve been exercising strenuously, you may need a total break from activity to give your body a chance to heal. This would be an ideal time to catch up on a good book or take a long soak in the tub. If you have been exercising casually, an active rest day may be better. Take a long walk or jog, sign up for a yoga class, or complete an active recovery workout.