Why Do You Need Rest Days?

woman taking a rest day in hammock

The dreaded rest day. For those who are new to exercise and super motivated by the gains they’re seeing, it’s tempting to want to be in the gym or at least break a sweat every day. But when it comes to exercise, more is not always better. And the main reasons we find that our clients aren’t taking rest days is because they simply don’t understand their worth or are just not sure how to fill that time.

Why Rest Days are Necessary

Here’s the reality: You need to be taking rest days every week. And if you choose not to do that and consistently skip rest days, it could lead to overtraining. That means you could increase your chances of exhaustion, fatigue, moodiness, and soreness. You can also inadvertently derail your training and experience poor performance and decreased results.

Sometimes a mental shift needs to happen. We may need to retrain our minds that it’s okay and even good for you, to slow down, rest, and replenish your body and mind. And the best way to make that mental shift is to tune into what your body tells you.

Stop and listen.

Does your body want a bit more sleep? More stretching? More relaxation? Mindfulness? Better fuel? Are you isolated? Do you need community?

Take the time to figure out what your body is telling you. The worst thing you can do is push through warning signs and ignore what your body needs. Instead, respect it, and use your rest days for something else productive.

How to Approach Your Rest Days

If you have unstructured days, you may default to exercising given the opportunity. That’s why it’s essential to plan your rest days like you plan your days in the gym. You might pencil in a one hour block for “rest” and use that time for:

  • Catching up on bills or small tasks around the house
  • Meal prep
  • Workout prep for the coming week
  • Educating yourself on a new exercise or fitness trend
  • Creating upcoming fitness goals (signing up for races or competitions)
  • Spending time with family and friends you haven’t made time for lately
  • Getting outside into the sunlight to tune out your environment
  • Active recovery like a gentle bike ride, walk, or casual swim

How Many Rest Days Should You Take Each Week?

In a previous post, we covered how many days per week you need to work out. And since we believe you should work out more days than not, that means if you’re working out 4-6 days a week, you’ll have 1-3 rest days.

You may need to increase your number of rest days if you have weeks where:

  • You’re extremely stressed
  • Your workout intensity is higher than usual
  • You’re caring for a lot of people and exhausting yourself physically and mentally at home

If that sounds like you, give yourself a bit more time and space to rest to make the most of your workouts on the days you are in the gym.

The Last Word About Rest Days

Not every day needs to include fitness that has a specific goal, time constraint, or stimulus. Think about making rest days enjoyable, whether that means active recovery or complete rest. Then, plan when your dedicated rest will happen and what you’re going to do ahead of time. Having a plan in place will leave you no choice but to listen to your body, pursue relaxation, and be well-prepared to crush it the next time you’re in the gym.

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