The importance of rest days

I know it is easy to convince ourselves that we are super heroes. After all, we look after ourselves, train hard, and are ready to save the universe at the drop of the hat.

As much as I love comic book heroes, one thing that gets annoying is they never seem to get tired or need a day off. And this my friend, is where we differ so much from our spandex wearing friends. Because I assure you we all need rest days.

Plan to take a rest

Time for a reality check. How many days do you give yourself to rest each week. One? Two? Come on I know you haven’t scheduled Three!

But Rick you say, Lance Armstrong trained 6 days a week for his entire career. Yes, and we all know why.

Listen most professional athletes have some serious advantages over the weekend warrior. First off, they are usually genetic freaks. And secondly, and perhaps more importantly they train for a living. This means everything else takes backstage. Yes, some professional athletes have day jobs, but a lot of them do not and the ones with jobs know the advantage that is given to the others.

So how do you know if you need to plan a few more rest days?

Well, how are you feeling? Are you tired? A lot of people feel fatigued if not outright exhausted and do not even realize it. Instead they are moody or might sleep poorly. For myself, I notice it when my performance starts to decrease or even more importantly I just don’t feel like working out.

Unfortunately, there is no real clear cut formula that you can abide by. Instead it is going to take a bit of trial and error.
Here are a few things to factor in:

  • How old are you? Younger people recover faster
  • How good of shape are you in? When first starting out, ease into it. Building up the stamina to work out hard six days a week takes a long time and for some it is never possible.
  • How busy are you? Do you work 60 hr weeks? Sleep less then 6 hrs a night? Guess what you are going to have to dial back the workouts.
  • How is your diet? If you are dieting hard, you might not be providing your body with the adequate amount of fuel to perform or to recover at optimum levels.

What does a rest day look like?

Beers on a table

Enjoy some casual beers

At least once a week you need to give your body a full break. No high impact exercise, no lifting just a nice easy day. Heck, why not grab a six pack of your favourite brew and enjoy them with a friend.

If you are planning more then one day a week of rest, the key on the other days is to keep the body moving. On these days you could schedule a nice leisurely walk or even go shopping, god knows you walk enough when at the mall. But, do not get your heart rate up, you should be taking it easy and letting the body recover.

Unexpected benefits

So, slow down a bit. Let the body catch up to the hard work you are doing. Give yourself a few extra rest days over the next couple of weeks and I will bet dollars to donuts you start seeing improvements. Not just strength or stamina improvements either, I think you will feel better, fresher and want to workout harder when you do train.

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