When Should I Take a Rest Day?
It’s pretty easy to get caught up in the fitness bug once you catch it. All you think about is the gym. All you want to do is lift. Everything in your life can quickly shift towards making sure you get to the gym every single day no matter what! I mean, that’s a good thing right? Shouldn’t we workout every single day?
Well, no. Sorry to burst your bubble, but your body needs some time off.
Here’s a very rudimentary breakdown of what happens to our body when we train (I mean REALLY basic stuff here…). When we train, we should be training at a volume and intensity that is going to yield muscular breakdown, or tiny tears in the muscle fibers. There can also be effects on the central nervous system (often referred to as the CNS), connective tissues, and joints. When these tiny tears heal, they will grow bigger and stronger. The majority of our muscles will heal during good quality sleep each night, but depending on the severity of your training and total volume accumulation, you might need longer than 8 hours of sleep to heal properly.
Now, to be clear, just because you’re sore or uncomfortable doesn’t mean you HAVE to take a rest day. Quite often working out is the best cure for muscle soreness…. But that doesn’t mean your body will completely recover.
If an athlete is looking to workout three times out of the seven days a week, we would normally suggest putting a days break between the workouts. So a week might look like Monday, Wednesday, Friday… or maybe even Tuesday, Thursday, Saturday. After a while, athletes will probably want to increase their training volume in order to keep seeing steady progress and results. When we up the training volume to 4 or 5 days a week, we have to be a little more selective in our days.
Working out 5 days in a row is often too difficult to recover from. You’ll start to feel fatigued, excessively sore, and will more than likely start to feel pain in your joints. A great way to structure your 5 days of training would be the classic “3 on 1 off 2 on 1 off” method. Essentially, Monday-Wednesday. Rest on Thursday. Friday-Saturday. Rest on Sunday. These rest days should provide enough rest time to adequately recover from your training. Some people (due to schedules) can even invert this classic and go 2 on 1 off 3 on 1 off. Really, you just need to figure out what works best for you!
Here are some signs and symptoms that might suggest you need a rest day!
- Excessive fatigue
- Pain in joints
- Nagging injuries
- Not feeling ‘‘fresh’’
- Suffering performance
Rest days are very, VERY important for safe and effective training programs. Not only will they keep you in optimal performance mode, they just might help you get to that PR as well! Do not fall for the Instagram craze of “#NoDaysOff.” Days off are incredibly valuable for your progress.