Post Workout Recovery: Why Take A Rest Day
Who’s ready for the weekend?!
Here in the United States, it’s an extra long one as we celebrate Labor Day. I for one am spending the weekend on the beach in California with my family. Are you doing anything exciting for Labor Day? Let me know in the comments below!
With a weekend full of relaxation and frivolity (oxymoron? I think not) ahead of us, I thought it would be a good time to chat about rest’s role in fitness and how much you ACTUALLY need.
It’s actually a question I get quite a lot.
How much should I recover? Or, how many rest days should I take per week?
Unsurprisingly, it’s not a super easy question to answer. There are sooo many factors to consider. But the bottom line is that,
Rest days are 100% necessary.
This truth was really hard for me to accept. Until about a year ago, I lived in fear of rest days, thinking that the lack of intense exercise was going to cause me to gain weight. In college, I remember panicking when I got sick, thinking there was no way I wouldn’t gain 5lbs. Sunday mornings-my “rest” day-were spent doing an hour+ walk with my college boyfriend, telling myself that this was plenty of rest to recover from my crazy week of workouts, classes, and nights on duty (as an RA).
Well that was a load of crap.
Rest days are what allow your body to rebuild and your mind to chill until your next workout session. If you don’t get enough rest, you risk overtraining. Overtraining is essentially when you’ve worked your body so hard that it can no longer recover sufficiently before your next workout.
Some of the warning signs of overtraining are:
- Fatigue, not being able to push through your workouts with as much intensity
- Insomnia, you can’t sleep
- Persistent muscle soreness, can’t shake those sore muscles, even three days after your last workout
- An elevated resting heart rate
- Decreased appetite
- Irritability & depression
- You’re getting sick or hurt more often
If these symptoms are sounding familiar and you’ve been working out hard for a while now, I’d suggest taking some extended time off. Your body needs to recover from the intense amount of stress.
Notice how I said stress, not exercise.
Workouts = Stress.
Your body, unfortunately, is not able to tell the difference between stresses from life or death situations, term papers, killer squat sessions, and heartbreak. It’s all the same.
So, your body needs low-stress time to keep performing and chugging along towards your goals.
How much rest do I need?
As with everything else in fitness, it’s super individual and is based on a number of factors. When I work with clients, especially in group settings, I generally start with 2 rest days per week (unless they are very new to exercise, then we would start with 3 days).
Things to consider…
How’s your sleep?
If you’re not getting enough quality sleep, your body probably needs more rest days. Always aim for 7+ hours per night to support your fitness and health goals. Sleep is important for keeping stress and hunger hormones at bay.
How intense are your workouts?
The more intense you are training, the fewer sessions you should be doing per week AND the more rest days you’ll need.
Recovery, such as foam rolling and mobility work, are also going to be super important if you’re lifting a lot and doing lots of HIIT cardio.
What’s your stress level outside of your workouts?
Again, your body doesn’t know the difference between work/life stress and workout stress. So. It’s important to keep in mind all of the stressors in your life when considering your planned rest days.
If work is crazy, your relationship is tense, and finances are tight, you probably want to scale back your workouts, especially if you’re having any of the overtraining symptoms listed above.
Are you feeling energized throughout the day?
If you’re getting good sleep, managing your stress, and still feeling tired throughout the day, try adding one more rest day into your week. Do this for a couple weeks and see how you feel. Your body may just need a bit of a break.
Again, rest is super individualized and your needs will change. Stay flexible and aware of how your body feels and you’ll be golden.
If you have questions, shoot me an email!
How many rest days do you take per week?