How to Take a Rest Day
Working out is a process of tearing, or damaging, muscle fiber then allowing that muscle fiber to heal to create more muscle fiber. More might not be the best word choice there but that is what our bodies are doing when we work out. That’s why we get sore. You are literally tearing muscle fiber. It hurts.
A critical component of this is the healing part. If you don’t allow your body the time it needs to heal then you actually don’t get stronger or more fit. You just keep tearing muscles. You keep tearing them until your body REALLY gets hurt and you are FORCED to rest.
That’s why all workout programs include the following things:
You can’t get anywhere without these 4 things in your workout routine. Today I want to talk a little bit about resting. How to take time off your workout, why it is important, and some ways to get it done.
First - why is it important. Nothing is worth doing if you don’t understand why you are doing it.
A rest day is absolutely necessary to be able to rebuild or heal, those muscles you are using. This is the whole point to exercise in the first place. The point is to get stronger in some way.
Maybe you want to be able to keep up with your 8-year-old at the park.
Maybe you want to climb the stairs without getting winded.
Maybe you want to lose some weight.
Maybe you want to live to 120.
Whatever your specific reason ultimately it’s about getting stronger. That can not happen if you don’t have a rest day for your muscles to heal.
Let me say that again for the people in the back. If you want your workout to be helpful you MUST take time off. Otherwise, you are thwarting your efforts - for reals.
The other reason it’s important to rest is that it reduces muscle fatigue and ultimately the risk of injury. Look if you are purposely microscopically tearing your muscles eventually the microscopic becomes small, then eventually it becomes a big tear. A big tear equals injury. This is when you start running the risk of overextending joints and legit you can’t lift your arm. Or you pull your back and then EVERYTHING you try to do is painful.
This is not helpful in getting stronger.
In fact, you are effectively weaker now which is the exact opposite of what you were going for.
Taking that rest day also means you don’t start overproducing hormones that can make it difficult to sleep. This makes perfect sense y’all. If exercise increases energy, too much exercise can make it harder for your body to turn off when it needs to. Those hormones (which you do need some of) start working overtime and pretty soon you aren’t sleeping well.
I don’t know a person on the planet that wants their sleep to be messed up. Sleep is critical for health.
Now because of all of this, that rest day ultimately improves how your body can perform under more stress. If you are working out regularly and your body is making the adrenaline and cortisol at the levels it needs, and you aren’t injuring yourself and depleting your muscles of the glycogen it needs to have energy, then that means when you have to step up your game for whatever reason, your body can actually accommodate this.
Did your toddler just make a dash into the street?
Are you needing to carry a huge heavy piece of furniture into your house? Upstairs?
Are you landscaping your backyard and have a ton of brick to move?
Your body has an easier time getting these heavier (and not as common) things done now! It’s a win!!
I love a win! :)
Ok cool. Now we understand why we can’t work ourselves to death here. There are honest to God good reasons to have a rest day built into your workout routine.
Rest however doesn’t mean laying on the couch three days a week while you recover from a light jog 4 days a week. How much rest, and what that resting looks like depends on your fitness goals.
If you are doing some strength and/or resistance training that may mean not doing the same muscle groups every day. Not every day can be a leg day (besides you’d look funny).
If you have a significant amount of weight you are trying to lose and not in great shape already a rest day might be some gentle stretching.
If you all into bodybuilding you probably need to put the weights on hold at least a little and do some kinda cardio.
Whatever your needs are will determine the type of rest. Your best bet? Ask a trainer. Even if you just call into a podcast or write a comment on a blog post get some professional insight into this. In no way am I qualified to say what or even how you should be doing this. I’m just passing along some facts and sharing some of my own experiences on this one.
What is my rest day?
Well several months ago I spoke about my fitness goals and plan (see blog post here). I’ve tweaked it a bit recently just so I didn’t get bored but it’s mostly the same structure. My rest day is really Sunday and I do more yoga that day. Saturday is also a rest day from strength training because I don’t work with weights that day - we are doing long hikes, so more endurance cardio stuff. During the week I’m working on different muscle groups throughout so it’s not 5 days of legs, or arms, or whatever. It’s a little of everything to even things out.
Regardless of the kind of exercise you are getting, the take-home message here is that most rest days mean you should still do some sort of light activity (low impact) and keep on top of your diet. I’m not against cheat days by any means but more often than not you should still be active and not eat like a crazy person.
Keeping things a little regular helps your body and mind to establish some healthy routines. This is helpful for when things get sidetracked.
If you are solidly exercising, resting, and eating right then when a crisis hits and you legitimately have to step away for a while you can and your body will handle that stress better. It’s the same idea as a healthy person having an injury vs someone that already has some health challenges; recovery just takes longer and can be more painful.
This all needs to be taken into context with your own personal goals. Remember - I don’t believe in one size fits all. The takeaway on this is that in order to be healthy your can’t overwork your body. Rest and recovery are real.
When I first met my partner he was super hardcore with exercise. At the time I most definitely was not. LOL
We actually had some discussions about it. What’s healthy, what isn’t? We were coming from different perspectives and had some different ideas.
But as we continued to talk with each other it became clear to me that we actually did think the same way, we just had different goals. And the goals I had when we first met are different from the goals I have now so my strategy has changed.
So has his.
I’m a little harder on my body now.
He is a little kinder to his.
At the end of the day the thing that matters is your intention or goal. Your strategy is built around that.
Keep that in mind while you are reading this, and any other lifestyle post on what and how to do something. Take the fundamental and make it yours.
So with that, I will sign off.
Leave a comment below and let me know if you have some workout goals and what they are.
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Until next week y’all -