Have you been diligently scheduling rest days as part of your exercise regimen?
We can almost hear your shocked response: “Rest? Shouldn’t I be hitting the studio with everything I’ve got until I can’t possibly lift my arms or jump another jack?” Believe it or not (but believe it), the answer is “no.” In fact, regularly scheduled rest days when exercising are every bit as important as the workouts themselves.
Taking scheduled breaks are an intrinsic part of a physical fitness regimen. They allow your body and muscles to recover and recharge until the next round and prevent overexertion and the dangers of burnout. Rest, in addition to adequate sleep and balanced nutrition, are tantamount to your personal training success.
Rest days should be scheduled approximately every three to five days, and more frequently if your regimen is cardio heavy.
Here’s why scheduling rest days when exercising is essential:
- Rest promotes muscle growth. When you exercise, your muscles endure microscopic tears, which are repaired by body cells known as fibroblasts while you rest. This process heals the tissue and stimulates the growth of stronger, healthier muscles.
- Rest replenishes your energy. Muscles store carbohydrates as glycogen, which is broken down and used as fuel while you exercise. Proper rest recharges these fuel cells, so to speak, preventing muscle fatigue and sore limbs, and giving you enough stamina for the next studio session.
- Rest allows you to challenge yourself. Consider how you feel when you pull an all-nighter or burn the candle at both ends. You’re lethargic throughout the day, without the vim and vigor to complete even the most mundane tasks. When you’re running on empty, there’s no way you’ll push through the burn to do another rep of pushups or give the elliptical a run for its money. And without those moments of pushing through, exercise is not optimized, and your goals are never met.
- Rest prevents injury. Remaining alert is essential for any physical activity you do, particularly exercise. Nodding off during your workout might result in a dangerous misstep or a barbell to the foot (or worse). Not only that, but when you are not working at 100% capacity, you run the risk of overtraining, which can cause excessive stress to your muscles and bones, and require you to take an unexpected and extended period of time off from exercise.
Treat rest like it's a workout itself -- don't skip it, give it your all and listen to your body. You can still do some light activities and stretching on those days, but don't overdue it. You work hard, give yourself the time you deserve; you will see the results.