Rest days are just as important as your workouts. Your body needs adequate time to recover and repair in order progress. We hear this all the time but unfortunately when we get bitten by the exercise bug we tend to fall into the more is better category. Although we should aim to be active each day, when coupled with a hard weight or cardio session each day our bodies and mind will soon fatigue.
Without proper rest and recovery time we may begin to experience some harmful side effects. Such as a decrease in our immune system (no one wants to get sick), excessive muscle soreness, altered hormones, mood swings, fatigue, poor sleep patterns and a decrease in performance resulting in a lack progress towards our goals as progress begins to slow or plateau. As the side effects creep in, motivation to continue towards our goals will reduce sometimes leading to abandoning our program all together which is not ideal. For some, having a day off the gym is not as easy as it sounds, we can become almost obsessed with getting in our daily workout and find it a mental struggle to put our feet up and rest.
What happens when we have a rest day? Our muscles have a chance to repair and recover, this is when they grow. We tend to come back after a proper rest day with an increase in motivation and performance allowing us to push harder in our workouts. Our hormones balance, fatigue is reduced, and our sleep can improve. Mentally you will feel fresh and ready to remain committed to your program.
How much rest do we need? This depends on the type or workout program you are following. If your program is structured to improve cardiovascular endurance for example, then you should be aiming to achieve 150mins of moderate to high intensity cardio exercise each week. Depending on how you complete this time will determine how often you rest. If you are achieving this through five 30-minute session each week, the remaining 2 days of the week are rest days.
If your program is a strength based program you should allow at least 1 full day of rest before working the same muscle group again. For example, you may train chest and arms on Monday, legs on Tuesday and back and shoulders Wednesday. The earliest you would train chest and arms again would be Thursday which allows adequate time for the muscle group to recover. A program structure like this allows you to train all your major muscle groups twice and with a complete day off from exercise each week. If after your rest day you are still feeling sore and fatigued, a second rest day may be required.
Finally, to aid in the repair and recovery process, ensure you are staying adequately hydrated, eating a healthy balanced diet and sleeping between 6 to 8 hours a night. All four factors play a major role in achieving your goals.
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