What are they? Do I need them? How often should I take one?
Rest days are days spent with little to no physical exertion. An ideal rest day is one that doesn’t require your heart rate to skyrocket or body to sweat. This may include walking, household chores, casual bike, light yoga, stretching, massage, etc. Rest days don’t have to be boring or spent on a couch. It’s great to still work towards 10,000 steps in the day but don’t over do it.
Rest days are an important part of any training program. While it may seem counter productive, rest days are actually a vital part of building muscle, burning fat, and keeping your body and mind healthy. Ever try to workout on little to no sleep? (Shift workers know the feeling!) It doesn’t feel good to be under rested while working out. Weights feel heavier, breathing feels harder, body feels sluggish, etc. It’s actually very stressful on your body and can create a catabolic effect on muscles meaning it’s causing more harm than good. Just like little sleep, little time off of training can cause the same effect. This is how injuries happen.
Often times it’s not the body that doesn’t want the rest, it’s your mind. You tell yourself you’re doing your body good by working out every day. It becomes an accomplishment to feel sore and achy. WRONG! You don’t need to feel like complete sh*t every day to reap the benefits. In fact, you shouldn’t feel beat up by the end of the day everyday. If this is a habit you have formed it is one that needs to be ended. Learn to enjoy the lighter training days and know that any good program should have a deload week. This is a week where volume and loads are brought down giving your body a break. This is SMART training and something the highest levels of athletes incorporate so they can continue to be the best.
Rest days should be implemented at least 1-2x per week. Possibly more depending on load and intensity. The classic CrossFit prescription is 3 days on 1 day off. If you are feeling tired, sore, achy, take a rest day. If you are dealing with a constant nagging ache or pain, please consider a couple rest days in a row. This is your bodies way of telling you “Hey, I’m on the verge of injury, please give me a break!”
As much as we all love the feeling of a good workout and the rush of endorphins that follows, it’s simply necessary for our wellbeing. Next time you take a rest day consider doing something else productive like going on a long walk, mobilize, or make a new recipe. Soon enough your rest day will become routine and you’ll actually look forward to it just as much. Well, maybe not, but your body will feel better!