The importance of taking a rest day

Sometimes you just need a relaxing walk along the beach! Photo taken in Laguna Beach, California

‘Work hard, play hard’, ‘harder, better, faster, stronger’, ‘push to the max’ — that’s how the sayings go, right? In order to make progress, it seems logical that you need to do more work and push yourself harder. However, it’s important to remember that rest days are a crucial part of your training programme and not giving yourself time to recover could, in fact, be hindering — or even worse — reversing your progress. So before you head to your fifth HIIT class of the week, I’m going to explain why rest days are just as important as your training days.

Prevents injury

Getting injured more often? In particular, are you re-aggravating old injuries? If so, you may be overtraining. Why? When you overtrain, your body doesn’t get enough time to recuperate between workouts meaning that at some point you begin training in a weakened state. If you fail to schedule in those essential recovery days, your immune system simply won’t be able to keep up with all the repairs your body needs. What’s more, by heading to the gym feeling tired and sore from your last session, it’s likely your form is going to slip — potentially causing more injuries! To prevent yourself from overtraining, introduce forced rest periods into your routine as well as changing training intensities or enjoying active recuperation sports — something low-intensity and completely different from weights and your usual cardio.

Helps your muscles to grow

Has your body stopped changing in spite of your best efforts? Do you feel as if you’ve reached a plateau? If so, you may be overtraining. When you’re overtraining, your body is going in the opposite direction of growth, because your muscles are torn and all you’re doing is re-tearing them again. Don’t risk possibly entering into a muscle-burning phase. Remember: muscles need a chance to repair, and that’s only possible when your body is given the proper time to rest and recover before being forced into more exercise. This is also why it is crucial to switch up your training to hit different muscle groups and to listen to your body if you’re feeling super sore.

Improves your sleep

Struggling to get in a solid 7–8 hours of interrupted beauty sleep? Although trying to exhaust yourself with a hardcore workout might seem like a good solution, over-training could actually be the cause of your tossing and turning. It’s most likely a result of a combination of nervous system and or hormonal system overload. Sound relatable? Try to focus more on getting your 10p.m. to 2a.m. sleep because this is the part of your sleeping pattern where physical restoration occurs. Your body grows whilst resting, not training. Additionally, try swapping your next high-intensity session for a light evening walk outside or some Yoga/Pilates to hit the pillow feeling calm and relaxed. Oh, and switch off that phone and laptop!

Boosts your immune system

Feeling ill isn’t part of a healthy lifestyle. In fact, sometimes it’s your body’s way of telling you your immune system is suffering from overtraining. The process of overtraining means your body is in a continual catabolic state, which lowers immunity and increases chances of becoming ill. If you’re frequently suffering from colds or feeling run down a lot of the time, I would highly advise getting some rest and reducing your training. You should also look to your diet and perhaps any nutritional supplement intake if necessary. If you are concerned about your health in any way, speak to your GP.

Gives you a mental boost

Too much of anything is never a good thing, and over-training is no different. As well as affecting you physically, hitting the gym everyday can also cause serious mental burnout. Taking a break for just a day or two can help give your motivation the boost in needs and will keep your workouts enjoyable. Think quality over quantity — it’s better to work hard and get in 4 great workouts than 7 half-hearted sessions.