Rest days are often overlooked as a key part of training.
People get excited about achieving their goals and just want to add more and more sessions because they figure the more they train, the quicker they’ll get there.
Plus there’s the simplified, quasi-motivating battle cries of NO DAYS OFF or REST WHEN I’M DEAD.
Taking a rest day doesn’t mean you’re not committed.
And, in fact, it could help you reach your goals faster.
Why is rest important
Think of it a bit like charging your phone. Using your phone drains the battery over time, so in order for your phone to work properly, you need to charge it regularly and reset it every now and then.
Your body is the same.
When you train, you drain your battery – you put stress on your body and there’s a limit to how much stress your body can handle. If you’re not resting to recharge and let your body recover properly, your body will find a way to make it happen, usually via injury or illness.
If you’re not recovering properly, you aren’t going to be making the progress you could be. Resting not only allows your body to repair after an intense session, it also enables you to train with more intensity during your next session.
What does resting look like
Resting means giving your body a break from all the extra stress training causes. It means taking a day or two (or more, depending on how your body is feeling) off from heavy lifting or intense sessions. The more frequently you have a rest day, the fewer you need to take at once – for example, if you take 3 rest days a week, you should be ok to keep it that way and shouldn’t need to take an extended break (as long as your other recovery protocols are solid) unless you want to!
Taking a rest day doesn’t have to mean slothing it on the couch all day. You can do some light activity like go for a gentle walk, or do some stretching.
Resting also includes getting adequate sleep, in terms of both quality and quantity, which is when your body does the majority of its repair work.
Signs you need to take a rest day
If you train 6-7 days a week, you might want to look at adding an extra rest day or two. Especially if you’re:
- Feeling extra muscle soreness
- Feeling flat before/during a session
- Experience low motivation
- Significant change in appetite
- Experiencing a decrease in performance in the gym
If the thought of taking a rest day causes you anxiety, that could be something to discuss with your GP or a mental health practitioner. Training obsessively is not healthy and could lead to serious burnout.
Resting for a day or two, on a regular basis, won’t hinder your progress and will help keep you refreshed and energised to train hard every session.