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The Importance of Rest for Recovery
It is all too easy for us to get so dedicated to our health and fitness that we don’t take into account the value of taking a day off. The importance of rest for recovery in between workout days is critical in so many ways, and it is astonishing how many people don’t realize it.
You have to listen to your body, and the more you work out, the more you will understand when your body is trying to tell you to take it easy. In turn, you will be able to listen to your body, and ultimately improve your level of fitness. Keep reading to truly understand the importance of rest for recovery, and how to when to take a rest day.
What Is a Rest Day?
Whether it’s a planned part of your fitness regimen or completely impromptu, a rest day is basically a day where you don’t take part in your regular exercise routine. Depending on the intensity of your workouts or your current level of fitness, the amount of rest days you take per week could be different from someone else’s.
Again, when you learn to truly listen to your body, you will be able to better understand how many rest days you should include in your workout regimen. Furthermore, a rest day may happen simply because life got in the way. This can be frustrating, but it’s always important to look ahead when it comes to fitness.
The Importance of Rest for Recovery – How to Know When to Rest
Your body and mind will give you many signs to try and tell you to take the day off – even if you already had yesterday off, you still need to listen to your body and not try to force anything it shouldn’t be doing. Here are a couple signs that your body (or brain) will give you that it’s time to take a(nother) day off from working out:
- You are sick or have an injury. This is probably the most obvious one, and the easiest sign to listen to, but some people STILL ignore it. You can do some simple, light exercises to promote recovery when you’re sick or injured, but rest is the fastest way to feel better. Do it, and the sooner you will be back to your normal workout routine.
- Your muscles are sore. If you just did an intense workout, or maybe did a NEW workout that challenged you in new ways, there is a good chance you feel sore. This is normal, but it also is a sign that you should rest those sore muscles to allow them to recover. It may take more time than you expect (a few days, even), but nonetheless let those muscles rest. You can still work out other muscles that aren’t sore, if you really want to.
- You aren’t excited to start your workout. It’s cliche, but fitness goes beyond physical health, and affects mental health as well. If you are dreading your workout, even procrastinating, then perhaps your brain is telling you that today should be a rest day. This is different from “I don’t feel like working out today.” This is an actual feeling of dread, sadness, resistance, or fatigue before the workout has even begun. Listen to your body – and your brain!
- You aren’t performing as well as usual. This one is really hard for me personally, because once I start a workout I am committed to finishing it. Still, if you, say, can typically hit five pullups in a row without stopping, but today you can barely hit three, then that’s your body trying to tell you that you shouldn’t be working out right now. Keeping track of your progress is so important: not just to set goals and see how far you’ve come, but also to assess whether or not YOU are meant to be working out RIGHT NOW in the first place!
The Importance of Rest for Recovery: 3 Reasons
- Muscles need to repair. When you work out, your muscles get torn up. Resting these muscles gives them time to repair themselves, and depending on your fitness goals, this rest is essential for muscle growth. Your muscles also need time to replace the carbohydrates that you burned up during your exercise. There’s more science to this, if you’re interested.
- Avoiding rest increases your risk for injury. If you are too gung-ho about getting your workouts in without taking a rest day, then I guarantee that your form will suffer. And when form suffers, the risk of injury shoots up like crazy. In addition, you are more mentally drained when you don’t take rest days, so your focus and concentration are weakened as well–being unfocused is another easy way to hurt yourself.
- Resting gives you the energy needed for your next workout. When your muscles and mind are well rested, the next time you work out you will be more than ready. Your body will have greater endurance and a higher store of energy just waiting to get worked out. Furthermore, your mind will be sharper and more focused, which will improve your form and overall workout.
Make the Most of Your Rest Days
Taking a day or two off doesn’t have to mean you lie in bed all day. On my rest days, I still like to do light stretching, and occasionally I will do calisthenic skill progression training. Nothing intense, but enough to keep my body moving a little bit and my blood flowing.
But of course, there are days where I do want to do nothing but lie in bed. They don’t occur that much anymore, but sometimes I just need them! They help me with both my physical and mental health, and I truly see a pattern in the quality of my workouts after taking time to rest.
The importance of rest for recovery goes beyond just allowing your body to stop feeling sore (although that is important). It allows your brain to recover as well, which plays a bigger role in our workouts than we may realize. Stay well rested, keep going for your fitness goals, and no matter what, remember to stretch!
How have you laid out your rest days with your workout plan? Let me know in the comments below! And for another blog post on a similar subject, check out what I said about muscle growth and calisthenics.