6 Reasons You Need Scheduled Rest Days
Are you the type of person who's always got something to do? Weightlifting 4 times a week, HIIT twice a week, run 5 days a week, hot yoga class on Thursday and Sunday. Or is that just me? If this is how you schedule yourself on top of work, raising the kid, cleaning the house, and just existing, maybe you need to prioritize rest the same way you prioritize your activities.
For some of us, the idea of sitting down and taking a break is tough to do. But proper rest is essential for repair and growth.
Allowing yourself time to decompress allows your mind and body to rebuild and improves your overall performance in all aspects of life.
What does rest look like? Rest might just be doing less and lounging around. Or, maybe you calculate a massage into your time and money budgets. (Budgeting is a form of self-care too, my friend! It's not all spa days.)
Active rest days can incorporate yoga classes, light walks, or other gentle activities. But, doing too much without time to repair can hinder the results of your hard work. Mentally and physically, the go-go-go method is exhausting.
To maximize the benefits of your fitness training (and to stay sane), you need to schedule rest and stick to your program. There's nothing lazy about rest. Don't judge yourself! Find the balance of doing and not doing and let yourself enjoy both.
What are some benefits of allowing yourself to rest, de-stress, and decompress?
- Getting Enough Sleep Helps You Repair Muscle and Mind
Every night, we should strive to get enough sleep. But on rest days, you can allow yourself to sleep in that little bit more. Are you usually up at 6 AM for a workout? Stay in bed. Do you typically go for an afternoon run? Take a nap. Sleep allows muscle fibers to repair. Studies have shown that even a short nap (30 minutes or less) can also help to improve mental agility.
Muscle doesn't grow by lifting weights. Resistance training causes muscles to break down, and the gains are the subsequent repair. The tissue growth happens when we sleep. So, on a rest day, hit snooze, and see the rewards of your work and your rest!
- Rest Days for Mental Clarity
Your mind is a muscle that you flex with every conversation and decision. We want our bodies to repair, but we should put just as much emphasis on mental health. Taking time to unwind gives your brain the ability to shut off for a moment and recharge.
Recharging doesn't have to be productive either! Don't force yourself to meditate or do anything that is not exactly the nothing your mind needs. If that nothing is catching up with your favorite YouTuber, go for it! What's life without some guilty pleasures?
Life is stressful in its very nature. Quick decisions, unexpected expenses, challenging training plans. You do a lot. Let yourself have some downtime. Your brain will thank you. Life can wait, I promise.
- Reduce Inflammation and Nagging Pains
We're constantly trying to improve, right? Heavier weights, faster speeds, further mileage. The work is worth it, but we can feel it in our bones and joints. Nagging pain, soreness, tenderness, and general inflammation are side effects of training.
Getting enough rest and scheduling rest days in your program allows your body to heal. Depending on your regimen and the nature of the pain, you might consider scheduling yourself a massage, foam rolling, or practicing yin yoga. Pay attention to your body. It knows what it needs.
- Better Absorption of Nutrition
When you're working out, you're burning the food you're eating for fuel. Most people who focus on a healthy workout regimen try to enhance the benefits with a quality diet. Allowing your body a day or two during the week to allocate those nutrients directly to the muscles and bones rather than activity will aid in your body's attempts to repair.
Have you ever heard of "runner's stomach"? Sometimes, particularly fast runs or long runs can stimulate a fight-or-flight response in the body. Digestion slows or stops to pump more blood to the legs when this happens.
A day without intense activity allows your body to direct energy to the breakdown and absorption of nutrients.
- Your Next Workout Will Benefit
Before a race, runners generally taper down their training program. I typically take two days off from running before a race day. By the time you get out there, you're itching to go, and your mind and body are ready to get back in the game.
After rest days, you can lift heavier, run faster, and perform better. Fatigue is real, and it's something we often try to ignore. Our bodies can't go at 100% every day - that's not how we're designed. We need the repair and the rebuild just as much as the work.
- Reduce the Risk of Injury
The most rigid branch is the first to snap in the wind. An astrology book told me that when I was in high school. It still rings true. Taking a rest day can feel like laziness. We want to reach our step goal. We want to see the pump. We just want to run and forget about the day. We've all been there.
Injury is generally caused by increased fatigue. Exercise keeps breaking down your body, and it needs ample time to recuperate. Inflamed muscles, tired joints, even a tired mind can increase the risk of injury. If one part of your body is sore or tired, you might overcompensate with improper form. By resting, you give your body the time it needs to get the blood flowing, the nutrients pumping, and the muscle tissue repaired.
Schedule Your Rest Days Like Your Workouts
Don't talk yourself out of it. Stick to your plan and allow yourself to rest. The benefits of proper rest are so essential to your body and mind, no matter what kind of training you're doing.
Take active rest days and full-on lazy days. On an active rest day, you might attend a yoga class or take a long walk. On a "lazy" day, you might curl up in bed, get a massage, meditate, or just watch bad TV. Schedule your rest days sustainably and practically for your body. By doing so, you will see results faster and prevent injuries.