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Rest is Just as Important as Training

I have a confession. I'm 35, and only a year into this fitness thing. Like, seriously into it. So much so that I recently switched to a two workout a day, seven days a week schedule. I've been on it for a full month now. My body is showing signs of toning in places I never thought I'd see toned. However, and this is the confession part, I feel 80 in some of my joints and muscles.

I thought I could rest muscle groups on different days, but two-a-days will take a toll on the fittest (among which I definitely do not count). Let's take a look at why you should rest and recover when you're trying to get in your best shape!


What Can Rest Day do for You?

Simply put, rest day is when your body repairs and strengthens itself, and continuous training can actually lead to the weakening of your gains! While rest days are absolutely crucial for physiological reasons, it is also important for some psychological reasons.

This is especially true for the recreational athlete. The balance between home, work, gym, family, and friends is crucial to both your mental and physical health. Rest days are an excellent day to balance some of these responsibilities. As I'm reminded every time I enter my kitchen and look towards the sink, "Dishes ain't going to do themselves!"


I'm good though, why do I need a rest day?

Exactly my sentiment! Let me tell you why I was wrong. Any time that you participate in higher-intensity aerobic exercise (running, resistance training, HIIT, CrossFit, spin, etc.) you create tiny little traumas or microtears in your muscle fibers. This is the primary cause of your muscle soreness, but prolonged tearing can actually inhibit your muscles from rebuilding their supply of glycogen. Glycogen is the fuel they use to get your workout done, bring food to your mouth, locomote you forward, and any and all of your tasks for the day.

Lactic acid buildup is another cause of soreness when it pools in your muscle cells. On top of that, lactic acid has also been shown to decrease neural impulses and chemical impulses needed for full muscle contraction. At the very least, this stuff keeps you from performing at your best.

If all this happens when you exercise, then why do it at all? Well, it's only when you create these stressors that your body can begin healing from the microtears in your muscle tissues. In other words, you expose your body to something that absolutely sucks, and your body adapts to that stressor. Thus, it increases its tolerance for the things that sucked (i.e., exercise)! We call that gains.

Recovery also allows the body to clear out all of the metabolic waste that comes from breaking down your muscles. Too much of that floating around can actually damage your kidneys and muscles.


What happens when you don't take a rest period?

To be brief, you just won't see your fitness goal happen.

To not be brief, your body loses its efficiency to heal itself, your sleep suffers, you crave sweet or salty foods more than normal, hormonal imbalance, decreased immune function, and irritability.

In other words, you get pretty jacked up. Lack of sleep from overtraining inhibits your ability to heal, and the constant state of cravings can really throw off your carefully tailored calorie intake.


4 Easy Ways to Encourage Muscle Recovery

Eat Clean. I believe I have beaten this subject to death already on this young blog. However, I will continue to do so until the end. Avoid the Standard American Diet (SAD), and get with some whole foods with great nutrient profiles. This means fiber-rich foods, healthy fats, and adequate protein. You don't need to go overboard on the protein, no matter which way of eating you follow! PSA: Exercise is not a free pass to eat like crap! You're working hard, don't negate it by refueling with junk!

Foam Rolling. Alright, this one takes some pain tolerance... trust me. However, the endorphin rush you get afterward will keep you coming back for more! If you're rolling pre-workout, just focus on constant back and forth motion over the muscle to promote blood flow. After your workout, focus on slow and consistent movements of the roller over your muscle. When you find a pinch point apply steady pressure until you feel it release. This promotes the sudden relaxation of the affected muscle.

Hydration & Electrolytes. Personally, I throw down a gallon of water a day. However, don't feel the need to do that! If you stick to about an ounce for every two pounds of your body weight each day, you should be just fine. Hydration helps your body with many functions, one of which being cell repair. Also, don't go too overboard with your sodium intake, but be sure to take in enough sodium with your meals to replenish what you're losing through sweat!

Take a Cold Shower. This is my favorite thing to do after a good workout! Studies have shown that this improves resting heart rate, reduce localized inflammation, and flush you with endorphins. However, it's an acquired taste. Just try it out by turning down the temp as low as you can stand for the last 30 seconds of your shower, and then work your way up from there! You'll be hooked in no time. Even in the winter...


I learned my lesson the hard way, but as with other posts on this blog, you can learn from mine! Take your rest days, feed your body with the right stuff, drink your water, roll your muscles, and take cold showers.

The road to gains is paved with rest days!

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