Fitness for me is about listening to my body. When your mind tells you can’t push any further, your body is there to go the extra step. I also believe that the only way to make fitness sustainable for the long run (no pun intended) is to do something you love! As much as I love running, biking, swimming, hiking, and skiing, it is so important to give my body rest.
It can be easy to get in a groove doing something you love and not want to take a break. For some people having an off day just seems silly. They think “I could be working out so much right now, this break is pointless”. But our bodies NEED rest and recovery. Taking a day or two off from working out allows our bodies to enter the regeneration process, rebuilding the body tissue so that it can grow back stronger. When rest days are neglected overuse injuries are more likely to occur. Our bodies can handle a lot of physical activity but they also need time to heal.
For me rest days don’t mean sitting on my butt all day and doing absolutely nothing. We are active beings who are meant to move our bodies. Off days therefore include going for a walk, doing some gentle yoga, and stretching. These ‘exercises’ allow me to move my body without putting excess strain on my muscles.
Having designated rest days (such as a certain day or two during the week) allows you to make sure your body is getting the rest it needs. It is also important to not strictly limit yourself to just that one day a week. By this I mean LISTEN TO YOUR BODY. For example I woke up on yesterday (Thursday) and found my food swollen, red, and in pain….oh and I felt quite feverish. I honestly could have gone for my swim workout but instead I decided to take the day off, nap, and let my body recover. Now it’s Friday, my designated rest day, and I’m still feeling a bit weak. Rather than stressing about trying to do my workout from yesterday, I’m giving myself a break and resting another day.
There is a difference between resting because your body or well-being needs it and just being a little lazy. That is why doing something you love is so important! When you actually enjoying working out you’re more like to stay motivated and stick with it. So how do you know how many rest days to take?
One to two rest days a week will give your body enough time to recover from whatever workout you’ve been doing. However, if you suddenly increase the amount of training you are doing it is important to also increase your rest days. A few years ago when I was training for my 50 mile race, I took a month off of training to travel on a service trip to India. When I got back I had just over two months to get my endurance level back up. As much as I wanted to up my mileage I made sure that I took two or three rest days every week. Doing this helped prevent any injuries during training.
What it really comes down to is listening to your body. Some people might need more rest than others and that’s totally okay. Skipping out on rest days will only lead to injury rather than faster results. Days off are also an ideal way to practice self-care. It can be so easy to ‘rise and grind’ every day that we forget that our bodies need rest. We are able to perform at our best when our bodies are, and I don’t just mean fitness. Don’t be afraid to take a day off of training, rest your body, rest your mind, and enjoy the time off!