Rest days should make up an important part of any training plan or exercise regime but are routinely overlooked by so many of us. Guilty?
Whether runners, cyclists, gym goers or whatever, my clients are often of the opinion that if they rest they are 'wasting time' and won't meet the goals they are heading for, even worse their progress will decline and they will lose fitness or strength.
First of all, the majority of us are not professional athletes who can actually REST. Even if we take a rest day or two, we often still have to do the day job, run around after children and so on. This means that the rest we do take should be as high quality as possible and factored into our week as a day as important as all the others.
When you have a rest day, you:
reduce your chances of injury by letting both your muscles and nervous system re-cooperate
allow your body time to heal and make the adaptations you are training for
speed your progression compared to those who don't rest
avoid burnout, getting ill or RED-S (relative energy deficiency in sport)
When do I take a rest day and how often?
You shouldn't be waiting until you feel you need a day off, the rest day should be factored into your training week from the get go. How many rest days you need is very individual and depends on your level of fitness and experience, the type of training you are doing and the other demands on your energy. Most of us should have 1, if not 2, rest days every week. Schedule them on days that work for you eg: a day you might be particularly busy with work, or after a harder training session.
You know you are really over due some rest, or maybe need to factor more in, if you experience:
Becoming more tired than normal, feeling irritable and stressed
Beginning to lack motivation
Performance plateaus (or even declines)
Onset of niggles and injuries
What can I do on a rest day?
Rest! A gentle walk, some stretching, a very gentle Yoga class or something along those lines is fine if you really feel the urge to move your body but try to really rest up. There's a fine line between recovery and exertion so choose your activities carefully. If you can, just rest - an Epsom salt bath and an early night is perfect!
In conclusion, rest is important for your health, performance and longevity in your sport. Easing off regularly with some deliberate recovery time will see you powering through your workouts and reaching your goals quicker, stronger and happier!
If you need help factoring rest into your training plan, please get in touch or any questions are welcome.