Regular exercise is obviously an important piece of your fitness routine. But what you may not consider is just how important it is to schedule rest days right along with your workouts. Too often, we see people working out every day consecutively without allowing their bodies the time needed to properly recover. In reality, taking time to rest is just as important as getting your regular workouts in.
WHAT'S A REST DAY?
A rest day is just what it sounds like: a day dedicated to resting and taking a break from your regular training routine.
Rest days aren’t to be confused with lazy days, although it’s okay to sprinkle in a few of those every once in a while, too. The goal of a rest day is to allow your body to recover from the physical stresses of exercise. They’re also great for helping to refresh your mind and prevent burnout.
WHY DO REST DAYS MATTER?
Let’s break down why it’s so important to give yourself a break between workouts. When you do any kind of workout, but especially when you do strength training, your body goes through a process of breaking down tissues and creating microscopic tears in your muscles. Those tears are the first step your body takes towards building stronger, bigger muscles, but the important next step is giving your body much-needed time to rebuild those tissues and mend those tears. Rest days give your body a chance to do that.
That’s the science of it. But what happens in day-to-day life when you don’t take time to recover? Well, a lot of things. Not allowing your body time to heal itself after regular workouts can lead to fatigue, altered hormonal states, bad sleeping patterns, disorders of your reproductive system, lowered immunity, lack of appetite, and even mood swings. Your performance in the gym (or at home) will also likely suffer as a result.
Resting is just as important as working out because it’s an equal part of the total process required to build strength, endurance, and muscle. Your body needs rest to be able to grow and succeed. So how do you get the most out of your well-deserved rest days?
START WITH A GOOD NIGHT'S SLEEP
Getting good shut-eye is crucial to maximizing your rest day. The right amount of sleep comes with lots of benefits to your overall well-being. It gives your muscles, nerves, bones and connective tissue time to rebuild. It can improve your ability to focus and concentrate throughout the day, plus lowering your stress levels and boosting your mood. A good night’s sleep even supports your immune system and can help you lose weight.
The amount of sleep every person needs is different, but most people need about 8 hours of sleep each night. Some might require more, and some might require less, but most healthy adults fall close to this number. Do your best to get that sleep in by minimizing distractions before bed, sleeping in a cool environment, and limiting screen time before you lay down.
DRINK WATER, DRINK WATER, DRINK WATER!
Water is critical to recovery and we can’t overstate that. Water helps the body perform a lot of critical functions, and staying hydrated is key to helping your muscles rebuild. Staying hydrated will also help you reduce fatigue, boost your mood, and up your cognitive function.
If you don’t feel like chugging down a gallon of water when you’re out of the gym, make hydration more fun on your rest days! A cool pitcher of water infused with some slices of citrus fruit can make getting in your water feel more like a treat, and we’re always on board with that.
GET YOUR PROTEIN IN
You probably know how important it is to get your protein in right after a workout, but recent studies are teaching us that our bodies actually have the ability to build muscle using that protein for a full 24 hours after a tough workout. That means when it’s your rest day, your body is still well within the window of being able to put protein to work in rebuilding torn muscle tissue.
Make sure you’re giving yourself time to get that protein in, whether it’s through a delicious and healthy lunch or a protein bar you grab on the way out the door to run errands. Your body will thank you, and you’ll keep up the momentum your body needs to keep getting stronger.
CONSIDER AN ACTIVE RECOVERY DAY
If you’re newer to exercise or find that you have to do something to stay active outside of your training, consider taking an active recovery day. Active recovery days are a great way to take a break from your standard training regimen while keeping your body moving. Shoot for a low-intensity activity, like playing an outside sport, taking a yoga class or even going for a walk.
REMEMBER: BE KIND TO YOURSELF
Chasing after your goals is hard work, and sometimes the going gets tough. But the truth is that you can be your own biggest cheerleader. Take your rest days to reflect on all the progress you’re making, and lean into your recovery! You deserve it.
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