We all need rest. For some of us this is obvious and our preferred default setting. For others, rest is hard, the 2021 go-go-go lifestyle makes it challenging to pause and reflect on our lives. Wherever your feelings fall on rest, it is important for the mind and body. For this blog post, I'll stick to what I know well, which is how rest effects fitness.
I always tell myself, clients, family, etc. that having one or two rest days per week is optimal. Meaning you exercise 5-6 days per week and find 1 or 2 days to not structure any physical activity. However on these rest days you may find yourself walking, stretching, or doing some leisurely activities. If you don't rest, your body will eventually burn out. Different people will be able to tolerate different levels of activity before exhibiting signs of burnout. I will preface this by saying that I am not a doctor or medical professional, so please don't take this as personalized advice. It is important to look and listen for signs of burnout and over exercising in yourself and those you care about. For some this may be weight loss and for others this could be weight gain. Some may sleep too much and others will have trouble sleeping. This is why rest is so important, it helps us maintain homeostasis in our bodies.
I recently had a pretty intense gum procedure at the periodontist which has required me to rest much more than usual. While at first I was disappointed in the need to let my body rest more, I am now really appreciating this time that I had to stop and take stock of what is working for me and what isn't in my daily and weekly routines. I was not able to exercise other than walking for two weeks. This gave me A LOT of time back in my day. I realized this allowed my mouth to heal properly and my body to just take a break. I cannot remember the last time I took a two week break from exercise. While I would not recommend doing this often, I realized that two weeks isn't a lifetime and that the rest was beneficial in this instance.
When we get the right amount of rest it regulates our appetite, energy levels, memory, and so many other essential functions for daily life. For fitness, if we don't rest, it is very easy to burn out and stop seeing results. Working out hard seven days a week can back fire with weight gain, extreme weight loss, fatigue, and other complications. Our muscles need the rest to repair themselves and grow so we can perform better the next week.
I recommend taking 1-3 days off between strength training sessions. This doesn't mean you can't workout on the in between days. You can do cardio, yoga, or pilates in between your more challenging workouts. Maybe you lift Monday/ Wednesday/ Friday and then jog or cycle Tuesdays and Thursdays allowing for rest on the weekend. Find a routine that works for your schedule and keeps you motivated and feeling good!