Every good coach preaches the importance of taking days off from your chosen discipline. Whether you’re a runner, swimmer, weightlifter or just love to exercise, your body needs a break every once in awhile.
Usually, the most effective ways to take rest days are to pencil them into your weekly workout plan. That way you can schedule the rest of your life around them. It’s not perfect, though.
While this method keeps you healthy and well-rested in the long term, it makes it difficult to deviate from the plan and take an unscheduled rest day when you’re injured or feeling abnormal fatigue.
Sometimes it’s hard to listen to your body. When the sun is shining and all you want to do is share the beautiful day with your running shoes, ignoring pain or fatigue just happens and taking the day off is near impossible. But ignoring your body’s warning signs will force you to take more days off than you’d ever want to.
One day of rest is better than one week, and one week of rest is better than six months. Pay attention to what your body is telling you and look for these three signs telling you to kick your feet up, take the day off and avoid long-term injury by overtraining.
The Pain is Taking Over Your Workout
We athletes are always dealing with some kind of niggle. Pushing our bodies takes a toll, and sore muscles or joints that just feel a little off are part of the game. But it can be hard to draw the line between just a niggle and potential injury.
In all cases of pain, it’s better to be safe than sorry. If it’s been nagging for a few days or weeks, but is mostly manageable, taking a day or two won’t hurt. However, if it hurts so bad that all you can think about during your workout is mitigating the pain, stop right there. You’re either injured or on your way there unless you take the proper care. Take the day off, get it looked at and it’ll be better for yourself in the long run.
Although it seems obvious, if you feel pain outside of your workout it’s important to see a medical professional and take the day off. Even if the pain goes away during exercise, pain that impacts your everyday life is a sure sign that something is off or overworked.
You’re Tired And No Amount Of Sleep Is Making It Better
Even if your actual workout goes well, feeling unusually drained, tired or sluggish in the presence of adequate sleep is a sign you need to take a break—as well as one of the first symptoms of overtraining syndrome.
While the direct cause of this fatigue is not fully understood, research suggests this fatigue is the physiological response to the body not being able to keep up with repair at the rate it is being broken down through exercise. Pushing through this fatigue and continuing with your training as planned will result in chronic overtraining and adrenal insufficiency.
On the other hand, if you’re tired due to several poor nights of sleep in a row, it might also be time to pump the breaks on your workout plan. A lack of sleep will decrease reaction time along with immune, motor and cognitive functions—all of which are critical for workouts.
Your Heart Rate Is Doing Strange Enough Things For You To Be Aware Of It
Outside of exercise, it’s abnormal to even notice your heart rate without paying close attention to it. So if you get out of bed in the morning and it feels like it’s going to pump out of your chest or even if you’re just aware of your heart beating, your body might be telling you to chill out.
If your heart rate spikes going up a few stairs or getting off the couch, you need a little R&R more than you need a workout.
Although it takes a little more time to measure, heart rate variability is another sure way to tell if you need a day off. In everyday life, the patterns of our heartbeat should change throughout the day, containing a lot of peaks and valleys depending on what we are doing.
However, a lack of variability in heart rate can also be a sign you need to back off your training plan for a few days.