A lot of people feel like they have to "earn" rest. From sticking with soccer practice because "winners never quit", to working through unpaid parental leave, life has taught us to work harder. Many feel guilty when they miss a workout. Some of us feel guilty if we sit down on the couch to catch our breath for 5 minutes. Such motivation and commitment are admirable. However, rest and rest days are an important element, not only to workout programs, but to maintaining a healthy balance in our lives. Just as you shouldn’t train the same muscle groups heavy two days in a row to avoid overtraining, it’s not a good idea to go weeks without giving your entire body a rest.
Rest days aren't just about taking it easy physically or swapping out crunches for gentle stretches. They are about making changes to your life as a whole. Days where you don’t take appointments, don’t check your email and shut off technology. You power down and really focus on completely “rejuvenating”. Yes, a leisurely walk, easy stretching or yoga can be part of rest, however, these days we need to go even deeper than just the physical.
The COVID crisis put us all on a “type” of unforeseen, forced rest. As the days passed, we eventually became accustom to not going a million miles an hour, from one thing to the next. Life became more enjoyable, allowing us to reconnect with what is important. Heck, some of us even worked our way up to 8 hours of sleep a night!
As the world continues to reopen, let’s take the time to understand why REST, physical and non-physical is vital to our overall health and wellness.
Rest Day Can Make Any Day More Productive
A weekly rest day gives your body a chance to replenish glycogen stores you’ve depleted over days of strenuous exercise. Without a day off, you run the risk of fatigue, which can affect your performance. Which then transfers over to your life outside of the gym. After you’ve had a full day off, you’ll approach life with fresh energy and motivation and get more out everything you do. Oh yeah, for those that need a “scientific” reason to rest, it is the time when adaptation to exercise takes place. Your muscles are still growing and adapting even when you’re relaxing.
It Can Depress Your Immune System
When you don’t give your body an opportunity to rest at least once a week, you may end up overtraining or pushing yourself beyond your limits mentally. Overtraining cause levels of stress hormones like cortisol to rise. This depresses your immune system and increases your risk for colds and viruses. Mental fatigue is equally damaging to your immune system, your body just can’t keep up with the demands put on it and it doesn’t know where to look for energy.
You need a break from life, including exercise from a mental standpoint as well. We all know how it feels just before we head off for a vacation; short fuses, lack of creativity and general overall fatigue to name a few. We just need a break! The same goes if you work out every day, especially if you aren’t varying your workouts, psychological staleness sets in.
It Reduces the Risk of Injury
When you train daily without giving yourself downtime, you increase your risk for overuse injuries. Even if you’re careful to cross-train, your muscles, bones, ligaments, tendons, and joints still need time to recover. Overuse can lead to stress fractures that could require weeks of rest. Stepping outside of your “workouts”, without rest, our bodies do not function as they are meant to. When we are both physically and mentally fatigued, we are unable to focus opening us to greater potential of injuries and accidents.
A Rest Day Doesn’t Mean You Have to Sit on the Couch
Its okay to keep moving on a rest day, but don’t do exercise that requires focus or intensity. Take the dog for a walk, play Frisbee or miniature golf, bowl or take a leisurely bike ride. Choose something you enjoy to give your mind a break too. You’ll come back to life more motivated and stronger than ever.
From a technology perspective, start small and build from there. Choose a time where you shut everything down, including the TV and just “be”. It might be that you play a game or read a book, something that isn’t affiliated with a “screen”. Taking the time to unplug is so important. Once you realize that it’s possible, to unplug, start to add on other times throughout the week to enjoy quiet time.
So, repeat after me: “Rest is good, I won’t lose the gains I have made in any part of my life if I take a day for all over recovery.” You might just enjoy life a little bit more!