Do You Plan Your “Rest Days”?

Rest days.  We’ve heard of them before as they help our bodies repair from the workouts we are doing.

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My question for you today; do you take regular rest days?

No, I’m not talking about a “scheduled in” rest day, like doing yoga or doing a lighter form of activity like long walks.

I’m referring to a day complete with NO planned activity of any kind!! Does this mean you can’t do normal activities that come about; like pulling weeds in your garden, jumping on the trampoline with your kids or fitting in some errands and chores that need to be done?

Of course not!! Do what you need to do but refrain from scheduling a workout or stretch day.  Take the whole darned day off and feel doggone proud of it!

For crying out loud, this is the easy part of your routine!  Isn’t is complete craziness that we once may not have worked out one bit and felt guilty about that fact; and once you become more active (and some of us are more “active” than we should be. OCD, much?), then resting becomes a new “guilty” feeling.

But it shouldn’t be.  It does sound easy (and it really is easy); but it is often neglected.  I hear so many of my clients and friends who fall behind in a program and fit in missed workouts on their rest days.  This only truly counts as a “rest” day (the actual “missed” day) if you did NO physical activity that day. (not for instance, if you decided to take a run or a group exercise class for fun and blew off your normal plan.  This is def NOT a rest day!)   Did you know that rest days are just as important as your workout days?

Yes, you read that correctly!  Here are some reasons why:

The body becomes stronger or fitter by being exposed to stresses.  Once this happens, the body then needs time to repair from those stresses (workouts; training) , which means rest.  The rest days also help to prevent injuries.

Beginners:  If you are new to exercise, it’s important to ease into your program slowly so that your body can adapt.  For example, try to exercise on two consecutive days and then rest completely on the third day.  If you continue to push yourself and skip the rest days, your body will begin to fatigue and you’ll find your energy lagging completely.  

Also, if you are a beginner or even take on a new routine or exercise, you may feel soreness and tightness in the areas worked.  This is the body adapting to the new moves and workouts.  You may experience the following: severe muscle soreness, muscle stiffness, decrease in strength, decrease in skill levels.  This is referred to as “DOMS”; or “delayed onset muscle soreness.  This can take up to 12 hours after your workout to materialize but can last up to a week or more.  There are strategies to help recover in the best ways possible but I won’t go too far off topic today 😉  Good news is that the more you repeat those activities, the less likely you will feel DOMS (or at least not as much as before).

Advanced:  Those of you who are more experienced in fitness and even those who train for events; resting and recovering are equally as important to your body.  There is a term called “Progressive Overload” and is laid out for you here:

• Training is designed progressively to overload body systems and fuel stores
• If the training stress is insufficient to overload the body’s capabilities, no adaptations will occur.
• If the workload is too great (progressed too quickly/performed too often without adequate rest), then fatigue follows and subsequent performance will be reduced.
• Work alone is not enough to produce the best results; you need time to adapt to training stress.
• To encourage adaptation to training, it is important to plan recovery activities that reduce residual fatigue. 
• The sooner you recover from fatigue, and the fresher you are when you undertake a training session, the better the chance of improving.

Plan your training carefully, include rest days where you let you’re body recover from the stress and begin to adapt to the training. Try thinking ahead to the race/event date, plan different sessions for each week. Maybe do a couple of weeks of more intensive and hard sessions, but follow that with an ‘easy week’ where you’re body can adapt to all the hard training you’ve been doing. Periodization…? (excerpt taken from “Fitness Friends” UK)

So, how do we utilize the rest in the best possible way?  We don’t want to interfere with the hard work we are doing in our exercise programs, so it’s critical to follow the following rest strategies as frequently as you follow your workout programs.

*Sleep.  Do you sleep at least 8 solid hours each night?  If not, find ways to add more sleep to your schedule.  In our societies, as lives become increasingly more busy, we neglect sleep in lieu of finding extra time for more activities.  Stop doing this.  Active rest is a good practice to adopt too.  Read, meditate or listen to soothing music can do wonders for your stress levels.

*Hydrating and Nutrition.   It is most important to replace fluids after exercise and to replenish energy stores by eating the right foods at the right time.

*Cool downs and Stretch.  Do you recover and cool down following your workout; or do you just stop and leave?  I find that too many of my clients have fessed up to dropping the cool down and stretches after their workouts; for time issues.  They felt that this wasn’t as critical to their bodies changes as the actual workouts.  Wrong!!  Think for a moment of all the tightening in your muscles from the contractions made through exercise and how will those same muscles lengthen again and not be at risk of injury?  YES!! Stretching is the right answer!!

*Massages.  I admit, this is my absolute favorite luxury that makes me feel better and my body work more effectively after?  It warms and stretches soft tissue, increases flexibility, removes microtrauma/knots/adhesions, increases blood flow, enhances the oxygen and nutrient delivery to fatigued muscles and helps to improve mood and enhance relaxation.

*Cold baths.  This, I admit, I have never attempted.  I’ve heard horror stories regarding the practice but also how helpful and amazing it helps afterward.  I trained for my first ever full marathon this past year and would have been a good candidate for this practice at that time.  But I was too scared.  The idea is to plunge your body (cuz you can’t move into it slowly!) into a bath of icy cold water and this will cause the blood vessels to constrict and help remove lactic acids.  Once you get out of the bath, (the only part I actually would look forward to here) the capillaries dilate and the “new” blood flows back into the muscles. This brings oxygen to help the new cells function.

There you have it.  Rest days are non-negotiable and should be planned into each and every week you are working out.  I like to coincide my rest days on my Sundays; as they are family and days spent together.  You can choose any day of the week but don’t skip it ever ever ever!!

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