After your workouts, are you noticing that maybe you’re a little more tired than usual?
Maybe you don’t have as much energy as before?
Are you suffering from mild depression?
If you answered yes to any one of these questions, it may be time for a rest/recovery day. Working out is very beneficial to our health, but negative side effects will appear if you don’t take time away from the gym. Rest and recovery should be implemented into every exercise routine no matter your goals. Even just one day of rest per week will help. The phrase, “no off days” or “no pain no gain” should only be used metaphorically. When the phrase “no days off” is used, we mean that we don’t want to take long breaks from the gym and “no pain no gain” simply means we have to break down muscle tissue to see results. If you are literally inside of a gym 7 days a week or are exercising and their is substancial amounts of pain, then there is a problem and a rest day, or longer, is needed. There are two types of rest we will look at, passive and active, and give pros and cons for each to see which type of off-day will work best for you!
The first type of recovery is called passive recovery. Passive recovery means that there is no exercise done and you are taking a true break from the gym. Our lives are filled with all different types of stress, so stressing out about fitness and getting a workout in should be the last thing we worry about. I personally use passive recovery days. I work hard in the gym, so taking a rest day for me is like an accomplishment. Now, this does not mean that we just stay in bed all day. As amazing as that sounds, our muscles will not recover as well and you actually risk injury because you won’t have sufficient blood flow through your body. We still want to walk around and perform normal daily activities, we just aren’t doing as much physical activity. When I take a rest day, I want to completely rest my muscles and joints.
Active recovery means performing low-intensity exercises to allow your muscles to recover. Examples of this include light strength training, taking long walks around the neighborhood, performing stretches or yoga and even meditating. Active recovery is the opposite of passive recovery, meaning we are performing physical activity at a lower intensity. An active recovery day has plenty of benefits including improving blood flow, improving mental health, and helping to prevent injury. When we engage in active recovery and perform cardio, we want to make sure that we do steady state training. Steady state training is where our heart rate stays around +/- 5bpm the entire time. We are basically doing a shorter version of a workout. The cons of active recovery include the feeling that a workout was not done. When we are used to going 100% all the time then suddenly do a workout at half the speed, mentally it can make you think the workout was a failure.
Regardless of which type of recovery we engage in, listen to your body. You should schedule a rest day every 7-10 days, but I feel that at least two rest days a week are needed when doing strength training, especially for newer clients. Results are made outside the gym during rest. All weight training is going to do is tear down the muscle fibers, but if you don’t properly heal them, they will never grow and repair. Sleep is also an important component of fitness. If you lack sleep, it will be harder to achieve your fitness goals. Low sleep can lead to stress, a decline in growth hormones as well as decreased glycogen synthesis. Try to make sure you average around seven hours per night.
Rest days and recovery periods are, besides diet, probably the most important component of a fitness program. If you don’t rest, you are only setting your body up for failure! Listen to your
body and always let your trainer know if you are experiencing any symtpoms related to overtraining. Always train smarter, not harder. If you are reading this and think it’s time for a short break, take it and relax. YOU EARNED IT!