Is the ‘REST DAY’ really necessary??
Ask anyone what their least favourite day of the week is, and if they’re not into the gym or exercise, it’s probably Monday. Ask someone who is into exercise and the answer will be their dreaded rest day.
“You mean to tell me I have to do something other than train today?!”
“Fine. I’ll think about training, talk about training and watch videos of others training!”
It’s for this reason the ‘anything-counts-as-training’ mantra is being popularised more and more; people are doing all they can to quash the rest day for good. I have been there too, surviving a rest day by running the script of tomorrow’s workout in my head.
So, what’s the deal, should a rest day be a couch potato day, a day of light stretching and walking, or can you get away with H.I.I.T. workouts on rest days?
As someone who has trained anywhere from 3 days per week to 7, I can tell you that rest days are definitely needed if you wish to make genuine progress in your sessions. If you just want to feel tired and get sweaty, you could in theory do cardio workouts everyday. (Note: I do NOT recommend doing random workouts everyday where you don’t track progress. Making consistent and steady progress over time is the ultimate key to making long-standing changes. But you knew that anyway because you read my content)
I’m a personal trainer and gym instructor. I also teach exercise classes. Some are softer in nature (pilates and yoga based) and some are more intensive (spin and kettle bells). Recently I had a workout that was ‘one of them days’……everything felt heavy. My power was low and my mind didn’t want to endure anything. And I really couldn’t pinpoint why….
My body felt OK, albeit a little sore – and I’d slept reasonably well. What the hell was making me so zapped?!
Then I got thinking about my schedule the last few days and came to realise I hadn’t had a true rest day, in the purest sense; one where all I do is walk and some passive stretching. Surely teaching a stretch based exercise class the day before wouldn’t steal the power from today’s pull ups, would it?
Honestly, it looks like it did. Even though the exercise isn’t intense it still takes energy – both mentally and physically.
Doing nothing gets bastardized by today’s #workoutordie mentality but I really think for all of us training hard, smart and safe, we need at least one rest day where we’re not exerting ourselves at all. Can you walk? Sure. Can you stretch a bit? Go for it. Can you do weighted stretching and intense mobility? Not today!
Even constantly thinking about working out can be a drain, I’ve found. It’s far better to occupy yourself with other things – reading, socialising, other hobbies, resting, meditating…….you name it.
Rest days for the win
In summary, I really think rest days are important. They allow you to come back fresh and try to smash the last workout’s numbers, and actually have the chance to do so! As to how many rest days you need, that’s more of a personal question which depends on many factors: how hard you train, your experience, your lifestyle habits, stress levels, age, health and many other things.
But I will go out on a limb and say everyone needs at least one FULL rest day per week. Yep, even you!
JR @ Straight-Talking-Fitness View All
The 'brains' behind StraightTalkingFitness, a site all about discovery that leads to strength in all formats; fitness, mental, emotional and spiritual. Everything starts from within and projects outwards. Master the body, master anything and everything.
Totally agree! Rest days are a very important part of a good training program and you are cheating yourself if you don’t have them.
It’s a lesson we all learn over time. How many rest days per week do you have?
Most weeks 1-2 days of rest, though I still go for a long walk with my dog on rest days.
Walking on rest days is great and I try to make it a staple. Some foam rolling and stretching never goes a miss too!
Great post! Rest days are definitely important 😀
Thanks Britt! I think the tough thing with rest days is occupying yourself with stuff other than fitness. It’s so easy to spend rest days wishing you were training and dreaming of training.
Great post and thanks for bringing up this topic! Far too often, people on their personal journey to becoming healthy, forget that our bodies are machines that do require rest. I think another important aspect of this discussion and a key reason to take a rest day, is to reduce some of the inherent inflammation that results from strenuous workouts.
Definitely! It’s easy to get caught up in the trap of working out everyday – or thinking you can! Mentally, I can handle a workout everyday. Physically, I can’t.
What kind of things do you do to reduce inflammation and recover?
Thanks for your comment.
Similar position here with the mental and physical capabilities.
For reducing inflammation…magnesium supplements, cold showers, and lots of H20. Recovery…lacrosse ball and foam rollers, yoga, and sleep.
What sorts of tactics work for you?
Thanks for the info!
Much the same – I’m a fan of contrast/cold showers. I like to eat to eat lots of good quality food the day after a hard session and am a big advocate of stretching/mobility. The foam roller is good too. Going out walking for at least 30 minutes helps too, I find.
A really big one too, is not being stressed……or rather, ‘de-stressing’. Evaluating whether the things we let ourselves get stressed about are actually worth getting stressed about at all. More often than not, they’re not worth stressing about at all.
Agreed on all points! I think the role of stress can have an impact in all facets of life…including your workouts (can either be a motivator or detractor), relationships, work…everything. I do meditate daily using the HeadSpace App and try to journal daily.
To your point regarding food…key to recovery and de-stressing in my opinion. I think a healthy diet allows an individual to flourish in all aspects of life. Finally…sleep is essential to recovery in my opinion.
Keep up the great work!
I need to get into meditation. Loads of people have mentioned their success with HeadSpace. I’ll look at downloading it on my phone. Another big one is deep breathing. I’ve started doing that in small portions, when I have time. Thanks for the kind words and for reminding me about HeadSpace.
I completely agree. A rest day is absolutely CRUCIAL. I like to cycle through 4,5 and 6 day routines. It changes intensity and duration of the exercise programs. I’m in my 40th year of training and loving it. It has provided me the quality of life I enjoy with minimal compromises. I just came back from a cruise where my wife and I chose an Obstacle Course excursion over the “lay on the beach” excursion. There were only 9 of us (including 2 children.) My wife and I were the only Americans. I do not mention this to pat myself on the back; it is to share the reality that our world is moving in an unhealthy direction caused by sedentary lifestyles.
Great information your sharing. People will benefit greatly from it!