Thinking Out Loud: Rest days

In order to achieve health, optimal fitness levels, lose body fat and weight, and be in the best shape ever you should work out every day…right? Wrong.

Rest days are so important in achieving all of the above. I thought of this topic after reading this article by Times Colonist, called “Work Hard, But Rest Hard Too.”

These individuals will pack their week full of workouts and forget to give their bodies much-needed rest. While the intent is amazing and it is great to have so much enthusiasm for health and fitness, too much exercise can actually have a negative effect on your body.

Getting active is a great thing, and I applaud you for your efforts! But each time you go to the gym, whether it’s to lift, run, spin, or swim, you are challenging your body, and creating muscle tears. Becoming stronger isn’t about what you do IN the gym, but rather what you do AFTER the gym. You need to make sure you are fueling your body properly, but also making sure you give it the rest it needs. Your muscles need time to repair and get ready for your next workout.

With adequate rest, you will continue to improve and you are less likely to face an injury in the future. Without it, you can face sluggish days in the gym, nagging aches and pains and the release of stress hormones that can slow your metabolism and prevent fat loss.

The book I just finished reading, It Start With Food (find my book review here) discusses stress hormones, especially cortisol. Non-stop working out, without rest, can raise cortisol and make it extremely difficult for you to lose body fat, if that’s your goal.

Aim to have 1-2 rest days per week, and after hard workout days, follow it up with an easy workout. A lot of trainers also suggest a “de-load” week every month, where you decrease the intensity of all your workouts for the week.

For my half marathon training, my “de-load” week is actually in 2 weeks! We will decrease our miles for the week before hitting double digit long runs.

Do you make sure you take weekly rest days?