My thoughts on rest days and how I use them to optimize my training, recover properly, and listen to my body. They may be harder than workouts sometimes. But they are so necessary to stay healthy and happy as an athlete!
Rest days. A highly debated topic in the world of fitness.
Are they necessary? How many should you take per week? Should they include active recovery or pure rest? So many questions for something that seems like it should be simple. But they’re not. They’re hard, they’re anxiety-inducing for some people, and they’re not the most fun. But that doesn’t mean they’re not IMPORTANT.
As a personal trainer, I am here to say they are 100% necessary. As a fellow fitness enthusiast, however, I’m not going to sugar coat it….they can be challenging to incorporate.
I am someone who mostly uses fitness mostly for mental health and stress relief, so rest and relaxation can be hard. With so much on my plate between work and grad school, my workouts sometimes feel like the only time I get to turn my brain off for a bit. So on rest days, it can be hard for me to sit still and just BE sometimes without always having to be DOING. It’s something I am always working to improve and have made major progress with over the years. A sign of which is that I now take weekly rest days.
I’d be lying if I said I ‘enjoy’ them or ‘look forward’ to them, but I at least TAKE them. I force myself to. Even when I don’t feel like I have to…I rest. Because I know my body needs it and I know my mind will be grateful for it too.
Today, I want to talk about rest days with you all. What they mean to me and what they mean to others in the fitness community. I think by getting a better understanding of what exactly rest days entail will help other get more comfortable with taking them! So let’s break it down. R.E.S.T. days are just as, and even more in some cases, important as your workout!
RECOVER REBUILD REPLENISH
The long asked question…should you actually REST on rest days? I say YES! If you’re used to moving a lot and being active, I think one day a week of doing nothing and letting your body totally decompress and reset is SO necessary. Think about it, we’re on our feet, using our minds, and go-go-going ALL DAY EVERYDAY. We owe it to ourselves to reserve one day of total relaxation and rest. For some this could mean lying on the couch all day with their laptop tuned into Netflix and for others it could mean doing light cleaning around the house. I don’t think you should feel forced to do active recovery. Sure a walk or leisurely bike ride is nice, but if you’re not feeling it and really do want total and complete rest, THAT IS OKAY.
Obviously it’s important to work on good nutrition on active days, but it’s just as important on rest days. In fact, on rest days I amp up my focus on nutrition and nutrient density even more. Believe it or not, your body is working EXTRA hard on rest days to rebuild and replenish your muscles and glycogen stores. You may even find yourself feeling extra hungry on your days off. Don’t panic! This is totally normal and NECESSARY!
Working out doesn’t give you permission to eat, so don’t restrict yourself on your rest days just because you aren’t moving as much. In fact, it’s probably better to eat more on the days you’re more sedentary to make sure you’re fueled and ready to go when you hit the gym again! Focus on frequent, nutrient dense meals throughout the day to stay satisfied, fueled, and ready to get back at it the next day!
I try to stretch and foam roll daily, but on rest days I take extra time to do both and really work out my muscles. Dedicate some time in your rest day to really get a good stretch in, use the Stick, or roll out the muscle fascia all over your body. Even an easy yoga class can be great for loosening up and clearing your mind!
We sometimes tune out during our workouts. We get in a zone and even stop listening to our bodies in some cases. Use your rest day to reconnect your mind and body. Tune in. Acknowledge any niggles or slight pains you’re experiencing. Ask yourself if you need to change up your training at all. Question as to whether you need more rest in your week than you’re already taking. Figure out if you’re enjoying your workouts or dreading them. Take time on your own to just think and dial in to what your body is asking from you.
Here are some thoughts on what other fitness lovers think of their rest days….
I look forward to my rest days as it is a chance reset and get caught up on things around my house or take in a movie with my family. | Angela
The best and most successful athletes are those that understand that rest days are just as important as hard workout days! Think of them as the balancing partner to your hard days. | Susie
Your rest days are when the real growth takes place. There’s no progress unless you allow your body to recover from all the hard work you’ve been putting it through! | Kayla
Rest days are more than just resting from working out, they are rest days for a mental break as well. Getting proper rest for each area of life makes me a better wife, friend, sister, nanny, etc. | Esther
I wholeheartedly take part in rest days! I feel they are very important for your body as well as your mind. Your body needs these days to rest, recuperate and build. Your mind needs these days to rest, recharge and stay motivated to keep going. I think if you didn’t schedule and enjoy rest days, you’d eventually burn out – physically and mentally. | Chrissy
They are so key for your body! I used to be that person that would hate to take rest days. Now I love them and know that my body needs them. Not only to help rebuild muscle, but help me perform my best at my next workout. It is so important to let your body rebuild and repair. I have really grown to love them and now try to get 2 in a week. And my workouts have improved with them! | Kelly
For me a rest day is all about looking after your body. To your body exercise = stress and just like being overly stressed about your job sees you falling apart, so does stressing your body with exercise.
A rest day doesn’t have to mean laying in a bed and not doing anything – but it does mean stopping and giving your body a break… and making sure you nourish it with the right amount of fuel too! A car needs fuel whether it’s driving for 2 miles or 200 – just like your body needs fuel whether it’s exercising or not. | Kristy
I actually have a hard time taking rest days (I just crave movement and like to use it as a study break), but I know they are so important for my body. I don’t view rest days as “lay on the couch all day and watch Netflix”, but rather a time to let my body recover, while still moving around to get blood flow to my muscle. Often , I’ll still go for a walk, stretch, do yoga, or shop.
Usually, I don’t pre-schedule rest days (and I don’t recommend that), but take them as I feel I need them. Listening to your body is key if you want to be able to continue a exercise/training regimen! | Kerri
Rest day is reading all the articles I book marked through out the week over a cup of hot chocolate. It’s a real treat! I also like to take long walks in Central Park while listening to podcasts or talking to my grandma on the phone if it’s sunny out. | Talia
Do you incorporate rest days on a weekly basis?
Do you struggle with taking rest days?
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