Rest Days.

Rest Days. We all need them.

Some of us hate them. Some of us can't wait to get to them.

But what the heck are we supposed to do with them?!

When I design programs for clients, I program in "cross-training," "active recovery" and "rest days."  They are all incredibly important... and incredibly different.

Cross-Training days are any day where you are still "working out," but in a totally different way than you normally do.  If you're a runner - it could be a spin class. If you're a power lifter - maybe it's boxing or circuits.

Biggest thing to remember: CROSS TRAINING IS NOT REST.  Many of my highly-motivated clients often mistake/substitute cross training for rest.  We'll talk about that in a second.

Active Recovery days are my favorite.  They are designed to get blood moving to the muscles that need oxygen, protein and all the other good "stuff" that blood delivers to assist in recovery of muscle fibers damaged during exercise.

Take a walk, take a yoga class, take a gentle hike, but the key word is: MOVE.  My active recovery days always include self-myofascial release (a whole post on that later)and stretching as well.

Rest days are also important - especially if you train hard or train a lot.  Those are "veg" days.  Activities of daily life may not stop, but there's no sweat, no increased heart rate, no work.    This is the perfect day to get a massage...

To Recap:

  • Rest: "A bodily state characterized by minimal function and metabolic activities"
  • Recovery: "A return to a normal condition; Something gained or restored in recovering."
  • Active Recovery: "Performing stretching exercises or exercising other body parts to help recovery after intense workouts. Allows for a more productive use of exercise time."

SO.  Why? Why would I want to take a whole day off from training when I'm on a roll!?

1. Mental Health. Overtraining is mental as much as it is physical.  Burn out is one of the biggest causes of people "retiring" from exercise, as Len Kravtiz so gently put it.  Give yourself a day off, just as you would from any other job.

2. Muscle Strength. Tired muscles are weak muscles.  Take at least 24 hours between workouts, but I structure programs as follows to get 48 hours between groups:

  • muscle group
  • antagonist (opposing muscle group)
  • active recovery
  • muscle group
  • antagonist
  • rest/stretch

3. Fat Burning. Big myth buster here:  Your body only burns fat when you're not working out hard.  CRAZY TALK!  But seriously.  One good weight training session can increase your metabolism up to 8% for several days after the lift.  Give it a chance to do its work.

4. Because it feels good. After 2 days of working out HARD - it feels really good to just talk a walk to the library, foam roll my legs until I curse cry, then stretch for about 20 minutes.  It's a well-being thang!

Rest up, my dears... so that you can work out harder!  Play harder!  Live harder!