Why Your Body Needs Rest and Recovery Days
As athletes, gym-goers, and recreational fitness buffs, it is imperative that we give ourselves the appropriate time to rest and recover between workouts. Without proper rest and recovery, we put ourselves at risk for decreases in performance, burnout, injury, and taxing our mental state. Overtraining can lead to depression, severe fatigue, and an overall lack of balance in your life. Throughout this article we will be explaining what proper rest and recovery is, the physical and psychological benefits, and our personal suggestions for optimal rest and recovery in your everyday life!
What is a rest and recovery day?
There are two types of rest and recovery days: active rest/recovery and complete rest/recovery. Active rest and recovery days are days in which you engage in less strenuous forms of exercise. These may include; going for a walk, a light hike, jogging/biking/swimming at an easy-moderate pace, or classes such yoga and pilates. Active rest days do not mean complete inactivity, rather days in which you move your body and engage your mind in a much less strenuous way than normal. Complete rest and recovery days on the other hand DO mean complete (or almost complete) inactivity. These days are designed to completely rest and recover your body and mind by disconnecting all thoughts surrounding “getting your workout in.” We will discuss our recommendations for each in later sections.
What is overtraining and what are the symptoms?
Overtraining is training beyond your bodies’ ability to recover. Often times our natural instinct for improvement is to continuously train harder and longer than we used to, without proper rest and recovery. However, this mindset often backfires. Overtraining symptoms include but are not limited to: lack of energy, muscle/joint aches and pains, decreases in performance, headaches, irritability, decreased immunity, moodiness, insomnia, a compulsive need to exercise, and injury. To avoid overtraining, it is imperative that you implement active rest days between hard workouts and allow yourself at least one COMPLETE rest day per week. If you notice that you have been overtraining, we suggest taking a few days off, properly hydrating, and seeking out massage therapy to help you relax both mentally and physically.
What are the physical benefits of recovery days?
There are numerous physical benefits to rest and recovery days, but our top 5 include: injury prevention, adequate time for muscle repair, increased performance, strong immune system, and better sleep. Injury prevention- recovery days allow your body the time it needs to rest, cross-train, and avoid overuse injuries. Muscle repair- when you lift weights and stress your body during your workout you are breaking down muscle fibers. Proper recovery allows time for these muscle fibers to repair and rebuild. Increased performance- when you allow time for muscle repair you are also increasing strength and adaptation allowing for greater levels of stress and resistance in future workouts. Strong immune system- when we are taxing our bodies with intense activity, our immune systems are working in overdrive to repair muscles and joints. If we don’t allow for proper rest, it is impossible for our immune systems to catch up and this often leads to injuries and sickness. Better sleep- overtraining can put your body into a state of restlessness making it hard to get a good nights’ sleep. I think most of us can agree that there is nothing better than a good nights’ rest, so be sure to keep that in mind when you’re tempted to skip a rest day!
What are the psychological benefits of recovery days?
Just as your body needs rest and recovery, so does your mind. Think of your brain as an organ that also needs time to recover from everyday stress. Not only will taking a rest day give your mind time to focus on other important priorities in your life such as family, friends and other activities, but it can also help rekindle your excitement surrounding exercise and help to prevent burnout. Mental fatigue can be just as debilitating as physical fatigue and it is important to take time to recharge your mind!
What does SISSFiT suggest in terms of optimal rest and recovery?
Rest and recovery days are largely dependent upon the frequency and intensity in which you workout. We always recommend one complete rest day per week and at least one active recovery day. We personally enjoy alternating resistance training days with HIIT cardio days so that we are not overworking any one muscle group, however every individual trains differently based upon their goals, time constraints, etc. A good rule of thumb is if one muscle group is extremely sore, give that group a break while either taking an active rest day or working another muscle group (e.g. if your legs are sore, focus on upper body the following day or do an easy run/bike/swim to loosen up your muscles and get rid of lactic acid). We also strongly recommend foam rolling and taking time to stretch! We know it is hard to find time to commit to stretching (let alone working out), so try to set doable goals. Our weekly goals include: foam rolling 3x/week for 10 minutes using our favorite foam roller (VYPER 2 by HYPERICE) and taking at least one restorative yoga class (our favorite is CoreRestore at Core Power Yoga). Finding out what works for YOU to ensure you keep both your mind and body healthy, restored, recovered, and ready for whatever life throws your way, is the key to health and fitness success!
Give yourself “permission to pause,” enjoy these moments, and be confident knowing that this will only bring further success and positivity into your life!
Stay Inspired. Stay Strong.
Lauren & Kelly