It's not uncommon to see athletes get into the mindset of wanting to grind at the gym day after day. Want that summer body? I need to workout seven days a week, right? Wrong.
Want to podium at that next power lifting or CrossFit competition? I need to train hard every day, right? Wrong.
Rest days are equally as vital to your workouts to achieving optimal results. This goes for weight loss, strength, performance, or whatever else it is that you're working on.
Why are rest days important? According to Mike Tromello, CrossFit coach, “The body repairs and strengthens in the time between workouts. Continuous training can actually weaken the strongest athletes.Recovery days are the only way possible to restore muscle tissue breakdown to make you stronger. It is okay to take two days off. It is okay to only workout one day and need a rest day the next. You should never be in perpetual soreness. Listening to your body is crucial.”
Pete McCall, CSCS, and ACE certified personal trainer say, “Fitness [improvements] happen after the workout, not during the workout. The best way to help your body recuperate and stay on track to reach your goals is to incorporate active recovery days into your weekly schedule.
That means easy sessions done at no more than 60 to 70 percent of your maximum effort.”
What should a rest day look like? If you are used to CrossFit, power lifting, or lifting heavy weights, you can perform similar movements using just your body weight. Body weight squats, lunges, pull-ups, push-ups. These movements will keep you active, without applying the maximal force or stress to the joints and muscles. Some other great options for recovery days include yoga, TRX, or any form of light to moderate intense cardio (walking, light jog, easy bike ride, etc). Even soaking in a hot bath is good to help aid circulation on these days.
Rest days are not only beneficial for letting the body physically repair itself but also for your mind. Many workouts are just as much mentally taxing as they are physically.
The next time you're feeling overly sore, tired, and fatigued, think about listening to your body. Take a day off or go a bit easier than you have been. Give your body and mind a rest.