I’m not going to lie: I hate to rest. Despite understanding the benefits, I am not exactly wired to sit still. A lot of times, working out is how I get out a lot of excess energy so that I am not driving everyone around me completely insane. Yet, if I do not rest, I know that there is no way for my muscles and body to recover from the strain I put on it, effectively slowing down my muscle gain/fat loss process, as well as increasing my risk of injury.
I have discussed this with many of my active friends. It seems that once we are in a daily routine we do not want to take that rest for fear of loss of our progress. One day of rest feels like a backslide of all our hard work. Whenever I have this discussion with others, it is always the same:
“I have been sick but still want to work out” or “I have no time to get in a workout tomorrow” or “Every muscle in my body is sore.”
“It’s okay to take a rest day once in a while. In fact, it is better for your progress.”
“I know but…”
But…. We all think we are the exception to the rule. That is simply not the case. It is a hard pill to swallow, but in this ever-busy society, rest is sometimes the best thing you can do for your body and mind. Having a rested mind is equally as important as rested muscles, because if your mind is exhausted you will stress yourself out. That stress causes a hormonal response, which leads to fat retention.
Simply put, working out hard breaks down your muscles and makes you weaker, whereas rest repairs those muscles causing you to become stronger. It takes two weeks of inactivity for the body to begin losing its strength and endurance. Therefore, taking one day off for rest is not going to cause you to gain 20 pounds and lose all of the strength and endurance you have gained. It will cause you to grow stronger and fitter.
Not only is rest required to build muscle and endurance, but it is necessary to prevent injury, especially through overtraining. Bodybuilding.com accurately describes overtraining as:
“Overtraining can best be described as the state when an athlete undergoes a very stressful training regimen that he or she simply cannot recover from any longer. This usually occurs when an athlete fails to listen to his or her body and take some much needed rest. The athlete proceeds to train and make the condition even worse.”
Overtraining not only leads to injury, but can also cause a DECREASE in strength and fitness. Though this is a problem more common in professional athletes, it is not unheard of for this to happen to everyday people. The focus on losing weight, getting that perfect body, etc. can lead a typical fitness enthusiast to overtrain and injure themselves.
If it is too difficult to wrap your mind around an entire day off from working out, try to start out with active rest. Some ideas include: a leisurely walk, gentle flow yoga, a light bike ride, light body weight exercises, or a leisurely swim. Note that all of these activities include light or leisurely effort. By taking part in active rest, you can still feel like you are sticking to your workout schedule while simultaneously letting your muscles repair.