The importance of rest days

Sometimes when you hit your workout stride it can become difficult to take a step back. For some people, exercise starts to become an addiction; for others, sports-related or social pressure keep them hitting the gym. Overtraining syndrome is very common with athletes and fitness enthusiasts. While working out is a super important part of living a healthy lifestyle, it’s important to not forget about rest days.

Not giving yourself a rest day or adequate time to recover from workouts can have a lot of serious side effects—both physical and mental. These side effects include:

  • Decreased performance
  • Fatigue
  • Increased resting heart rate
  • Increase in stress hormones (cortisol)
  • Loss of appetite
  • Sleep disturbances
  • Overuse injuries (stress fractures, joint pain, muscle strain, etc.)

Scott Abramouski, M43 Fitness Owner, has several years of experience working with youth athletes. Between school, homework, practices, scrimmages, and competitions/games, resting is often treated with low priority. Abramouski says his clients’ safety is always his top priority. And while his goal is to help someone reach their fitness goals and push them to be their very best, he knows when someone needs a rest day. These days are necessary to build muscle strength and endurance.

The American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM) recommends waiting at least 48 hours between resistance training sessions. When you workout, your training causes microscopic tears in your muscle. Resting allows your muscles, nerves, bones, and connective tissues adequate time to recover and rebuild. A well planned split can allow each muscle group to recover, while consistently staying active. For example:

  • Day 1: Legs/Abs
  • Day 2: Arms
  • Day 3: Back/Abs
  • Day 4: Rest
  • Day 5: Shoulders/Abs
  • Day 6: Chest
  • Day 7: Rest

Planning your rest days should involve as much dedication as your workout. We’re not saying your days off should be spent on the couch; we’re saying you should use those days to take care of your body—stretch out, use a foam roller, take your dog for a walk. Remember, these days are all about recovery.

Another very important component of workout recovery is sleep. Among its other health benefits, sleep is necessary for your body to recover. During REM, the body’s production of growth hormone increases. This helps repair and build muscle.

So next time you’re planning out your workout, be sure to plan out some meaningful rest days, too. Recovery time will vary based on intensity of your workout, volume of your training, experience, and age. If you need help finding the balance between hitting the gym and getting enough recovery time, check out M43 Fitness. With an activity tracking app and MyZone heart rate monitors, certified personal trainers can get a full picture of your activity and come up with a customized workout (and rest day) plan just for you.