Why Rest Days Are Necessary
Wednesday is slowly becoming one of my favorite days of the week. Why? Because it’s an active rest day for me. Even though I still get to work that day, I also get to sleep 30-45 minutes longer, I get to recharge so I can finish the rest of the week strong. It’s flat out a good day. But some people may not think the way I do. On Wednesday, you may be grumbling because you’re just waiting for the weekend to come (which are also active rest days for me). I workout 5-6 times a week. There are days that I double up. That’s a good thing for me, because my workouts are quicker bursts of exertion and they don’t last as long as a traditional workout. Rest days are so very important in the lifestyle of an avid exerciser. Let me explain why they’re so necessary.
REST DAYS PREVENT INJURY
When you’re working out consistently, you get to, accordingly, rest consistently. Much of the rest that you need is going to be when you sleep, but during your waking hours when you’re up and about, it’s good to take a day or two in the week to slow your workouts down and focus on giving your muscles some TLC. It’s not such a great idea to go balls to the wall in your workouts every single day, because this creates tension and angst in your muscles, which leads me to my next reason.
REST DAYS ALLOW MUSCLES, NERVES, BONES, AND TISSUE TIME TO REBUILD
Remember when I said that sleep is when you give your muscles the most rest? This is also the time when your body gets to heal itself and rebuild the muscle that you’ve broken down during your workout. Your nervous system also gets a chance to reset, along with your bones and tissue. When you take active rest days (we’ll talk about in just a second), you give your body a chance to stretch out, be aware that you’re not actually working out, and you prevent extreme soreness when you take active rest.
So when I speak of active rest days, there are days you workout that you're not putting your body through the stress and strain of an actual workout. On days like this, I like to go for a walk, a slow bike ride, have a full stretch day, things like that.
Now, complete rest days (I call them chill rest days), are days of rest where you are completely resting and not activating your muscles and joints. This is pretty self-explanatory, but an even simpler way to think about it is to consider when you get very sick. There is definitely no benefit in you trying to get up and move around when your body is in recovery/protection mode.
REST DAYS PREVENT OVERTRAINING (which hinders sleep)
When you don’t over train, you get to control your sleep patterns. Have you ever gone to sleep, and awakened just to feel more tired? It’s because you didn’t get restful sleep (see my previous post about restful sleep). One reason why you may not be getting restful sleep is because you’re overtraining your body and it’s in shock trying. Overtraining your body is simply overexerting yourself without getting the proper rest time in between workouts. Having an exercise plan comes in handy during this time because you know when you’re going to have harder days, you know when it’s time to increase your reps or output so that you don’t plateau, and workout plans prevent overtraining). This is what will lead me to the last two reasons why rest is so very important.
REST DAYS PREVENT A COMPROMISED IMMUNE SYSTEM
Wondering why you’re getting sick when you’re working out? It’s because you’re not getting enough rest, and your body isn’t able to heal itself properly. This leads to a compromised immune system. There’s a reason for covering up your body after you workout. When you are working out, your pores open up, allowing your body to regulate its temperature. When you go out into the elements with those open pores (mostly cool or cold air, but can totally be in warmer or damp weather, too), you leave your body susceptible to getting sick. If you’re worn out, up your chances of catching a bug.
REST DAYS PREVENT BURNOUT
This one is really simple and it encompasses all of the previous six reasons for not taking rest days. Doing too much will literally force you to “sit down somewhere”. You get to a point where your body is shutting off on its own because you’ve burnt out your energy supply, you haven’t given your muscles time enough to rest, you’re probably constantly getting sick, you’re getting horrible sleep, some part of you is always injured, and you're so overwhelmed that you're just not motivated anymore.
So work your buns off. Go hard when you're supposed to go hard, and most importantly, be smart. Rest when you need to rest. If your active recovery day is too much, take a full complete rest day. I promise in the long run, your journey will be more beneficial to you, and you'll actually get to enjoy it. And remember to incorporate a well-balanced meal plan. Abs totally begin in the kitchen!