Every now and then our body tells us we need to slow down and take an additional rest day and that is perfectly ok! There are several physiological as well as psychological reasons why we should schedule regular rest days. Here are few great reasons why it’s so important, and why you shouldn’t beat yourself up if you have to take an extra day here and there if you’re body is begging for it.
1. Let Your Muscles (Re)grow
When we engage in strenuous physical activity our muscles break down. It’s during that time that our muscles repair themselves, becoming stronger and more efficient. Your muscles need that time to rebuild, without it they will continue to tear. This continuous break down of your muscles leads to several issues (as stated below) but most importantly it will negatively effect the improvements to your strength you are working so hard for. This is also why it is important not to train the same muscle groups on consecutive days (when it comes to weight lifting). So when it comes to cross training, be sure to alternate your strength training days and do not neglect the importance of a rest day!
2. Prevents Fatigue
We exercise so that can look good, be stronger but more importantly to feel good. Exercise, along with proper nutrition and sleep, help boost our energy levels and our mood. But there is such thing as too much of a good thing. When we over-train and neglect rest, our bodies become fatigued. This causes us to lose energy, have trouble sleeping and it even effects our mood. It becomes a vicious cycle because when we are fatigued, we will not have the energy to workout. Without the energy to workout, we will not meet our goals and of course our mood will be negatively effected by that as well. Listen to your body, take rest days and your body will thank you for it with the energy it needs to keep going in the gym, out on the trail and in life!
3. Prevent Mental Exhaustion
Your mind can get just as burnt out as your body. Life is all about balance. We have to be able to physically and mentally enjoy what we do otherwise it will soon feel more like a daunting task than enjoyable activity. Taking proper rest not only helps you physically, but emotionally as well. It helps prevent boredom, rekindle your hunger for exercise (you know you miss it when it’s gone ;-)), and of course recharge your psyche. Not to mention when you are physically tired, your brain cannot function at full capacity, so rest days are win-win for body and mind.
4. Keep Your Immune System Strong
Over-training has been known to weaken your immune system, making you more susceptible to fatigue and illness. When you engage in consistent strenuous activity, your body’s immune system is there to help make the necessary repairs to your muscles and joints. Without proper rest, your immune system can not keep up with the demands you are putting on your body. Without an efficient immune system, you are more likely to become ill and then you will have no choice but to take additional rest days to re-cooperate. Do not wait until you’re already sick to take rest days, be sure to take them weekly in order to prevent a hit to your immune system.
5. Injury Prevention
From running to weight lifting, and everything in between, rest days help prevent the overuse of muscles and joints. Without allowing the proper rest, this overuse will eventually make you more susceptible to injury. There is only so much our muscles and joints can take at any given time before they begin to wear down. It is important you not only allow yourself regularly scheduled rest days, but also that you are listening to your body when it is telling you that you have had enough. Pushing ourselves through extreme fatigue and pain will only set us back in the long run because we will become injured and, of course, have no choice but to rest then, whether we like it or not.
The key to rest days is to schedule them in your regular workout routine. Chose a day of the week where it will fit best and commit to it. If an opportunity arises for a race, workout or strenuous physical activity, plan in advance and reschedule your rest day, but don’t skip it that week. Also, it is tremendously important that you listen to your body. Some times it will be begging you to slow down and take an extra day or two of rest. Trust me here, a few days off will certainly not set you back in your goals. In fact, the much needed rest will have you coming back stronger than before and ready to go out and crush it!