If you’re anything like me, you can feel a pressure to just do more. Taking a day off seems like “laziness” or at the least, taking a step back away from and not towards our goals. “Rest is for the wicked,” you may have heard. It’s time to let that go.
Just as in other parts of nature, like the tides or the seasons, our bodies are meant to wax and wane in their efforts. Even elite-level athletes have an off-season for a reason (and it’s not just to play golf). I personally just took a “de-load” week (as in “take a load off!”) to rest, recover and rejuvenate from training. For a full week I took a break from lifting weights, running and any other intense workouts. I kept my body moving with gentle yoga, walking and swimming. Now I’m feeling rested and energized for the week ahead.
Guess what? I didn’t gain weight, my muscles didn’t fall off and my clothes still fit. And I’m happier for it.
Rest is not only the rest between sets of exercise, or rest days between intense workout days, this is also the rest you get each night as you sleep. Let’s talk about WHY rest is so vital for our success – I’ll share five reasons.
Muscle Repair & Growth
Rest is truly where the magic happens in this regard. Your muscles don’t get bigger and stronger while you’re crushing your workouts in the gym; that is actually tearing the tissue down. It’s while you rest and recover that your tissue repairs, strengthens and builds itself, especially in the presence of adequate and appropriate fuel. This is the principle of super-compensation in action. Given sufficient recovery time and fuel, your muscle tissue will more than make up for the pressure exerted on it in the gym, allowing you to get stronger over time.
Feeling extra sore or drained from a workout or life in general? Is your mood or performance suffering? Maybe it’s time for a rest day. This is not “slacking” or “being lazy” – this is mindful program planning and an important part of your progression. Any coach who tries to tell you otherwise is not interested in your long-term health or results.
Reduce Risk of Injury
Both acute and chronic (overuse) injuries are more likely when the body is not properly rested. Fatigue can make it more likely to have incorrect form, putting muscles, connective tissue, and bones at risk for a sudden acute injury like a break, strain, sprain or tear. Failing to get adequate rest between training sessions can result in over-training and overuse injuries, which often present with symptoms such as inflammation.
Train smarter, not necessarily harder!
Adequate rest is important for ensuring optimal hormonal balance, which in turn impacts mood, energy, performance, hunger/cravings/appetite and fat loss. All pretty important things in the grand scheme of health and fitness, yes?
I touched on the importance of sleep on hormone function in a separate post, and also the fact that hormonal balance is one of the key non-food reasons for not losing weight when you’re trying to lose weight.
Reduce Boredom & Burnout
Yup, there is more to life than working out (shocking, I know). Regular rest helps to keep workouts feeling fun and fresh, reducing the risk of burnout. This is key for long-term sustainability, and long-term sustainability is the key to long-lasting results.
Your schedule needs to include time for you, your loved ones, your hobbies outside of the gym (yes, you can and should have non-fitness hobbies! Did you know that I knit and draw?), and the rest of your life. Appropriate rest supports BALANCE.
So there is my discussion on the importance of rest. As always, I’d love to hear what you think about rest, and whether you have any challenges or triumphs in this area. Did an injury cause you to sideline your training, and in doing so, opened a brand new opportunity for you?
Have a fit day!