The belief that skipping a couple of workouts a week will set you back a few strides with athletic performance is a myth that has been debunked over and over. Yet many people continue to believe it. Allowing your body to take some time to recover in between workouts and having rest days is a fundamental part of building your fitness and performance. Here are some reasons as to why rest days are just as important as the actual workouts themselves and tips to help your body recover.
Preventing Muscle Fatigue and Injury
Rest days are when all the benefits of doing exercise occur and are absolutely essential for muscle growth. When you exercise, it causes tiny tears to form in your muscles. During rest days, these are repaired, which results in your muscles becoming bigger and stronger. It also gives chance for your body to replace all the energy it has used up exercising. If essential energy stores aren’t replaced, you can experience muscle fatigue and soreness. When your body is overworked and tired, you become more likely to injure yourself by dropping a weight, missing a step or causing an overuse injury, all of which may put you out of the game for much longer than if you give your body the time it needs to rest and recover.
After a rest day, athletes usually find their motivation and energy levels are sky-high. They’re ready to work hard, challenge themselves and smash some of their personal bests. If you aren’t well rested, not only will your body not be up to the intensity, but it can be hard to push yourself to do your normal routine, never mind run that extra mile or do a couple of extra reps.
Overtraining and not giving yourself those essential rest days will actually decrease your performance, endurance and slow your reaction times. It may come as a surprise and sound counterproductive, but rest will actually boost your energy and make your workouts more successful.
Everyone knows that exercise can help promote a healthy sleeping pattern. It makes you tired and sets you up for a deep, satisfying sleep. But over exercising and not giving yourself enough rest will have the complete opposite effect. When you do physical activity, cortisol and adrenaline are released into your body which boost your energy levels. If you are overworking your body physically, they will overproduce, meaning you can have a hard time sleeping well, which will decrease your physical performance overall.
Allow your hormones to balance themselves out with necessary rest days so you can continue sleeping well and meeting your exercise goals.
Light Cardio and Stretching
Rest days aren’t about sitting on the couch all day eating chocolate and being a lazy slob. While you should refrain from doing any strenuous exercise to let your body recover, light exercise is encouraged. Go for a walk, do some stretching, just don’t push your body. Yoga is one of the best activities to do when you’re on a rest day.
It loosens your muscles while stretching them and building strength. It is calming, increases flexibility are gives you an awareness of your breathing, which is useful for all exercise. To help your body recover on rest days, try introducing a 10- or 15-minute yoga practice.
You need rest days to let your muscles repair, recover and be ready to continue growing and developing strength. There are a few things that you can do to help your body with this process. Massage is effective in aiding muscle recovery. Self-myofascial release, in other words self-massage, will release tightness, improve blood flow and prevent soreness. Foam rollers and targeted massage guns from Theragun for instance, will relieve tension in your muscles and improve lymphatic flow, leading to more effective recovery. From the Theragun prime hand-held massagers to wave muscle rollers, explore these massagers here to ensure your body is recovering successfully.
Rest Day Diet
You won’t be using up as much energy on rest days as you would do normally, so your rest day diet is usually a little bit different. Protein is an essential nutrient for muscle repairs, so it is important that you are fueling your body with enough protein even on rest days.
Carbohydrates, fruits and vegetables are the food groups to focus on when you’re taking a rest day. Carbs will restock your energy levels so your body is ready to go again tomorrow while the fruits and vegetables are packed full of healthy nutrients that will support repair and recovery. Your body knows what it needs and will crave certain foods, so listen to what it is asking for.
Listening to your body is one of the most important aspects of exercise. Your body will give you distinct signs when it needs to rest. If you are sore, fatigued and not performing as usual, take a break. Let your body rest, recover and repair so you can come back stronger and reenergized.