Do alarm bells ring if you even think about skipping a workout? Does the idea of a rest day send you running (literally) for the hills?
Living your life by the “no pain, no gain” motto can be empowering, but have you heard that other saying, “too much of a good thing”? It can apply to your training, too.
One of the reasons exercise is so satisfying is because we can feel it working: the burn in our muscles, sweat on our brow and increased heart rate are all signs that we’re moving closer to our goals. But the thing is, our bodies and brains are actually doing some pretty incredible stuff when we’re resting, too. Yet because we can’t see it, it’s easy to get tricked into thinking that taking a break is pointless or, worse, putting our goals on hold.
Shock twist: it isn’t!
If you’re worried that days without workouts are a waste, let us show you what REALLY happens to your body, brain and gains when you put up your feet and take a day off.
The big body benefits of rest
Whether you’re training to build muscle, tone up or drop some excess weight, your body needs time in between sessions to recover.
- Rest prevents injury. Working out at maximum intensity every day of the week might sound like the fast-track to your fitness goals. Reality check: it’s more likely to land you on the treatment table. One study of professional soccer players found that fatigue had a strong correlation with injury. Better to have a rest day now than a month off due to muscle strain later, right?
- Rest helps relieve soreness. Let’s clear up some confusion around exercise and pain – while some soreness is normal after an intense workout (particularly if you’re working new muscle groups) it’s not healthy, or even necessary, to be in pain 24/7. And the good news is, you don’t have to completely stop to reduce the pain often associated with intense physical activity. Take an active rest day: walking, swimming and gentle yoga are all great options that will keep your blood flowing and reduce muscle inflammation related to delayed onset muscle soreness (the dreaded DOMS.)
- Rest up to bring more intensity to your workouts. When you work out, you’re burning through the energy stored in your body. Without rest time to eat, sleep and recover that energy, you risk burning through muscle glycogen and hitting a big ol’ wall, also known as fatigue. If you’re too exhausted to bring your all to a session, you’re not likely to get the results you want.
Give your brain a break
This just in: there is more to life than burpees! While you process that news, let us explain how, by taking a break from working out, you make room in your life for other things that are just as (if not more) important. Rest days will help you:
- Feel the love. One of the greatest things about exercising regularly is that it gives you more energy to enjoy life away from the mat. If you’re constantly canceling plans with friends so you can squeeze in another workout, you need to stop. Remember, your health is about more than your resting heart rate or how many lunges you can do – so take a day off and catch up with your loved ones!
- Sharpen your mind. If you miss the feeling of ‘productivity’ that exercise gives you on a day off, consider using rest days as an opportunity to exercise and care for your mind. The time you’d ordinarily spend doing a workout can be spent in meditation, reading a book, playing an instrument or meticulously organizing the kids’ lunches for the week ahead – whatever brings you joy.
- Get a deeper sleep. It’s not a dream – regular rest days can help you sleep better. And because quality sleep means quicker recovery, it’s crucial to your fitness progress. And if you don’t take the time to rest? Your body interprets high-intensity exercise as stress, releasing stress hormones that make it difficult to get a restful, deep slumber. So long, progress.
Get rest, get gains
The muscle-building process requires two things: tear and repair. And the second ingredient in this recipe for gains happens outside the weight room.
Taking a day off from weight training gives your body a chance to restore muscle tissue that’s been torn during exercise. Without enough rest, your muscles will never have the chance to get bigger or stronger.
Oh and remember when we said regular rest days would help you sleep better? Well, deep sleep is fantastic for your muscles. Win-win.