This post was an unplanned as my rest day this morning, but I promise you, it will still be a good one.
I ran 5 miles last night and had planned to get up at 5.30am this morning and head to my B:Strong class, including a 1.6 mile run. However, I haven’t been sleeping well the last few nights and found myself awake for a couple of hours during the night last night. My mind was whirring and I just couldn’t shut off and get back to sleep; so when the sweet sound of my alarm went at 5.30, I just couldn’t get out of bed. I was feeling pretty sore from my run as well so I decided rather than fitting in my workout after work (which is what I usually do if I miss a morning) that I was going to take a rest day.
A day off the gym/running that I hadn’t scheduled into my week. WOW. The way I’ve been feeling recently, this had the potential to throw me totally off my game, to make me upset and worried that I would lose all my progress this week. However, after a quick reality check, I managed to control my emotions and decided that I would not let this alteration in my schedule get to me. It’s simply my body telling me I needed to take a break and I was going to listen.
Many people I know who work out regularly, struggle with the concept of a rest day with the main reason being that they feel unproductive, lazy or like they may be hindering progress. However, it’s actually the opposite. Integrating rest days as an important part of your workout schedule can actually help you achieve greater progress, in a quicker time frame.
So, why are rest days important?
- We put our bodies through great strain during workouts, particularly heavy loads or a large mileage. This is not sustainable without recuperation.
- They allow muscles time to heal and repair after tearing or strain. Avoiding rest days affects the immune system (essentially you can run yourself into the ground) and your body is less able to recover from this.
- Taking adequate rest days or de-load periods throughout your training cycle will decrease the risk of injury.
How can I make my rest days more productive?
- I use Epsom Salts in a bath to relax my muscles and loosen my joints which often become stiff after longer runs. This is also ideal for those who lift heavy loads.
- Keep up with your stretching routine, including the dreaded foam roller, to ensure your muscles are recovering effectively.
- Remain relatively active by adding a bit of walking to your day in place of your workout. Walk to work or just take a stroll after dinner. Raise your TDEE (total daily energy expenditure) rather than becoming a couch potato.
- Watch your diet. I don’t mean you have to ‘eat less’ but realistically, the volume/types of food you need to fuel your body on days where you are working out will be more than you need on a rest day. Be mindful of this.
- Plan your workouts, prep meals and organise any upcoming days to ensure you stay on track.
Instead of heading to the gym or running home tonight after work, I strolled home at a leisurely pace and got into my pyjamas when I got home. I cooked a healthy meal of Chicken Stir-Fry and didn’t binge; despite my mindset telling me I had already screwed up by not exercising. I listened to the facts (I will not gain weight or hinder progress by taking a rest day) rather than my emotions and stuck to my usual routine. Sometimes a nice chilled night in is just what the doctor ordered.
How many rest days do you take per week? Are these always planned?