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Why Your Body Needs That Rest Day In Between Workouts

There is no right or wrong way to work out, but there ARE a few tips that can maximize the result of those workouts. And taking a rest day is at the top of that list.

Whether you run, practice yoga, do Pilates, life weights or take group fitness classes, the truth is that any form of regular physical activity regime will do wonder for your body, mind and soul. Just as vital for the health of our entire being, however, is taking time to rest and rejuvenate as part of our regular schedule.

As someone who has “all or nothing” tendencies, there was a period in my life when my intense workout schedule became so rigid, I became anxious and uneasy at the thought of a rest day. There was more going on within me that created this mindset—I am grateful to say now that I have a much healthier relationship to my physical activity and softness with myself. It is sometimes the case that giving ourselves a break and taking a rest from the momentum of working out can elicit feelings of guilt—as if it were “lazy” or “slacking off.”

Ask any devoted and competent fitness professional: Rest days are super important. So if you’ve been struggling with accepting that you CAN give yourself a break, or maybe just trying to create a well suited fitness schedule for yourself, here’s the lowdown on why you can rejoice for the rest day and give yourself some TLC.

It will give your body time to recover. This is perhaps the most well known (and logical) reason for why rest days are important. Particularly if you’re working your body for strength; to grow and tone your musculature, the time when your body changes and integrates the growth is during the resting period. Studies have even shown that training without recovery periods can lead to injury and even bone density loss.

You will come back more motivated and strong. After even just one rest day, you have time to recover, relax and gather your energy for your next workout. If your fitness regime is very regular, a rest day is also a way for you to get space and time re-motivate yourself and come back to it with more enthusiasm.

You may hinder your weight loss goals. It can even be the case that for those who are looking to lose weight, training for long periods of time with no rest (a few days or even a week) can put the body into a protective mode where weight loss is interrupted. The body can literally “hang on” to extra weight as intense training activates the body’s survival protective mechanism to secure itself by holding on to extra “reserves of energy” stored as body fat.

Over training can interrupt with your hormones. Women who workout intensely can experience a drop in estrogen that can lead to an interruption in (and in a lot of cases even stopping of ) their menstrual cycle. Even if you are not an elite athlete, over training can lead to this hormonal imbalance, which can affect moods and interrupt your monthly cycle.

Over training can lead to burn out and mood fluctuations. Speaking of moods, those who workout intensely with no rest periods may find it harder to sleep, leading to a general lag of energy, rather than the increase in energy that working out in a healthy way should create. Being rundown from overdoing anything leads to low moods. In this way, the creation of those amazing endorphins that happens during exercise is actually diminished and wasted when we over do our workouts!

THE TAKEAWAY? Have a break! Your body, mind and soul will love you for it. A rest doesn’t have to mean lazing on the couch (though it totally can if you want!). You can take a light walk or do a yoga session that day. How do you know if you need a break? Start to key in to your body, feel your energy levels, notice your moods and especially when your motivation seems a little low; this is the time to take some time to rest. Build in rest days to your workout schedule. There are many ways to do this, so find out what works best for you.

Here’s some examples of what a rest/workout schedule could look like.

Moderate intensity training:
Mon – Work
Tue – Rest/light movement
Wed – Work
Thur – Work
Fri – Rest/light movement
Sat – Work
Sun – Rest

Stronger training:
Mon – Work
Tue – Work
Wed – Work
Thur – Rest/light movement
Fri – Work
Sat – Work
Sun – Rest

Happy resting.

Resources here and here.

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