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REST DAYS - 'Do I really need to take one?'

"But what is the point in a rest day? I'd feel too guilty"

You're training hard, hitting PB's, feeling good, why on Earth would you want to take a day (or few days) off from that? Wont you go backwards? 

Rest days, lets chat. 

Do you need to take one? Ultimately, yes. Your body needs rest just as much as it needs movement. This is however dependent on individual training, which we will discuss below.

It's so easy to fall into the trap of guilt and shame knowing you've missed a day or possible 'gains' and starting to compare yourself to who's training that day. I have been there believe me. Training 6-7 days a week, and even when it was a 'rest day', I'd still be itching and throw in some EMOM workout. Just so I could keep feeling like I was doing something, keep sweating and ultimately relying on a sweat workout to make me feel good about myself. Before I knew it my body was constantly fatigued, I had constant recurring injuries, falling ill a lot more and my performance was lowering. Ultimately, I honestly couldn't be bothered to train anymore and as someone who loves lifting weights or going on a walk. This was a horrible feeling. But due to a complete lack of knowledge, I just couldn't stop. 

So I am going to tell you what I wish I had known all them years ago. 

Rest days helps your body recover.

In whatever way you train, when you do your body is under stress and muscles are put through micro trauma and are broken down. Your muscles repair and grow when you are actually resting. imagine the rest period is the time you body takes to adapt to the stress you are applying during your intense training sessions. A rest days allows your muscles, bones, joints, nerves the appropriate time to repair and heal. 

Overuse Injuries. 

This is the fact I am passionate about. Training is so individual, so if you are going for a 10 minute walk every day, chances are a 'rest day' isn't always needed, of course not. However hitting the gym heavy weights, HIIT sessions, Crossfit, boxing, you name it. 7 days a week? It's just realistically draining and somewhat dangerous (in my eyes). Think about it realistically. If your body is under stress so to speak when we train or lift weights etc. What do you think happens if we continue to place them under that stress without efficient rest? Much more susceptible to injury. Overuse injuries happen when constant micro trauma occurs, so rather than the injury happening there and then, it happens overtime. Our muscles may become more easily sprained or injuries such as tendinopathy may occur. If we are suffering from other injuries, this may then lead to more or larger problems. It's important to not just be aware of muscles and tendons but also bones, as they are also put under a certain amount of stress, especially in sports such as running. You may experience bone stress fractures, other injuries may include fascia, bursa or nerve injuries.

Injuries don't have time to heal. 

Carrying on from my point above. When we feel a pain or a injury but can still perform, how many of you carry on and 'push through' it? Probably most of you. The problem we have here is, with most overuse injuries in the early stages there is little to no pain. When you continue to train and train and train, you are still placing that structure under stress and microtrauma. The injury has no time to start the healing process. The more stress you place without time to heal the tissue damage exceeds the threshold that the tissue can handle leading to pain and dysfunction.

Mentally keep you motivated. 

It's not just our bodies which burn out but our mind can very easily burn out too, if we are not careful. Most of us want to train because we enjoy or sport or activity. I know when I started weight training, I absolutely loved it, it made me feel so strong. I felt on top of the world. Then I felt myself getting obsessed and feeling guilt for taking a day off, and that when the enjoyment for what I was doing started to slip away. No matter what we do in life, we need a break from it, from time to time. I've found having a day or two off from lifting weights or whatever it may be these days, brings me back 10 times more motivated. A few days rest and I'm full of energy itching to go again! 

How many do I need to take? 

The question everyone is wanting the answer to. There is no one answer, sorry to break it to you. But like I mentioned a the start of the post, everyone is completely individual. And while yes if you are training high intensity workouts 7 days a week, got pains and niggles and can't concentrate, I would highly suggest take a break. Whereas if you have a good balance between low and high intensity, I would suggest 1 to 2 rest days would be sufficient. 

Two good points to remember is: 

  • How new your are to exercise. If you are fairly new, I would suggest taking 2 to 3 rest days to ensure you body has enough time to recover. Athletes who are use to exercising, although still need rest days, may only need 1 a week. 
  • Listen to your body. Please. If you have scheduled in 6 days of training, yes are feeling drained, tired and sore on a day you were due a high intensity session. Slow down, either take a rest or lower the intensity. I wish I had done this all them years ago. Listen. To. Your. Body. 
And remember by taking a rest day, you aren't being 'lazy' or losing progress. You are helping you body heal. You are making your body healthier and stronger!


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