The Importance of Rest Days
My life revolves around routine. Perhaps to some this seems inconvenient or boring, but to me, it helps me thrive. I wake up usually feeling well-rested, I accomplish my work and chores in a timely manner, and I come home having food I love already prepared, ensuring I stay on budget. So yes, I enjoy my routines. I don’t feel restricted by routine, either- I make sure to see my friends, stay up a bit later every now and then, and go out to eat whenever I am craving something special. And I particularly love my Sundays: the days when I have very little but house chores and weekly prep planned, allowing me to relax and read or watch all the TV to my heart’s content.
Sundays are my rest days, and, yes, this day has been built into my routine as well. Occasionally this switches around if I’m traveling or sick or plain old exhausted, but for the most part, Sunday is a day of rest. I do my meal prep, I clean my apartment, I work on my blog, and I spend a few hours plopped on my couch, binging on whatever newest book or show I am into. I sleep as late as I want (in my world, that means 7 or 7:30 at the absolute latest) and go on a nice, long walk when the air is still fresh, birds are out, and people are all asleep.
Now, normally, by 7 am I have already been up for 2 hours. I have gone and returned home from the gym, showered, packed up my food for the day, and headed out the door to work. I’ve had an entire morning already, one filled with lots of sweat and activity.
But on Sunday, I give myself a much needed break. By the time the weekend comes around, I am exhausted. I have worked a full week, worked out for five days in a row, and need some time to just not. Sometimes Saturday becomes a rest day too, but again, that’s when I listen to my body and see how I feel.
I didn’t always take rest days- in fact, I had to force myself to begin in the first place. Not only was I afraid that I wouldn’t “burn off” all the food I ate if I didn’t work out that day, but I was also absolutely terrified that I would lose any progress I had made physically if I wasn’t constantly working my body. It seems backwards that a day off from working out could actually help you make more progress. Weird, right? But I’ve found this to be absolutely true. My muscles are sore and aching by Friday and if I work out Saturday, it needs to be simple and stretch centered- I can feel the exhaustion.
Rest days are exactly that: days of rest. This doesn’t mean you can’t be active. For me, this means long walks and cleaning. Some people love yoga. Oftentimes, I spend a half hour stretching and foam rolling.
But why, scientifically, are rest days so important? Every time you work out, you are breaking down tissue. Tearing it, if you will. Your body needs water, food, and rest to heal this tissue and help it grow back even stronger. It’s the same reason why you aren’t supposed to train the same muscle group two days in a row- your body needs at least 48 hours between sessions to heal this tissue.
If you don’t take the time to properly recover, you are increasing your likelihood of injury and strains. Your performance will also decline due to exhaustion and stress. And overall, this will set you back. Not only does taking rest days improve your results and performance, but not taking rest days will lead to decline. And if you are anything like me, that may result in mental frustration and stress.
Ultimately, your rest days are up to you. Whether you take a simple walk or opt for a lower intensity workout, like yoga or a brief jog, a rest day can be whatever you need it to be to get back and hit the ground running.
What are your favorite rest day activities?