We so often we hear about the benefits of exercise and the perils of inactivity.
Fitness columns and motivational posters exhort us to exercise longer and sweat more. Trainers and fitness writers tell us we should savor the hard work and soreness. It’s easy to fall into a frantic “must work out every single day” mode.
But whether you’re training for a marathon, trying to bulk up at the gym or just getting your steps in, there’s one component of a quality workout routine that is essential to optimal fitness: rest.
Exercise means nothing without rest. Fitness goals cannot be met without adequate recovery in between workouts. Let’s explore why.
Although it’s important to move every day—and throughout the day—intense exercise should be sacred to days designated to the good kind of pain ( i.e., exercise-induced hurt: “hurts so good!”). According to Crystal Reeves, a NASM certified master trainer, fitness enthusiasts, and professional athletes alike both suffer from over training syndrome (OTS), caused by pushing beyond their bodies ability to recover.
“When you perform excessive amounts of exercise without proper rest and recovery you may experience some harmful side effects including decreased performance, fatigue, altered hormonal states, poor sleeping patterns, reproductive disorders, decreased immunity, loss of appetite and mood swings.”
If you’re lucky, OTS is short lived and can be remedied with a few weeks of couch surfer. However, if untreated OTS can result in lifelong hormonal, psychological and neuromuscular repercussions.
Obviously, if you have a little niggle in your foot or an ache in your knee, a day in the gym is probably going to do more harm than good. Scheduled rest can prevent injuries before we even know they are threatening to interrupt our workout regimen. Scott Quinby, medical director of the Baylor SportsCare program says that athletes who do not incorporate proper rest are much more likely to suffer from acute and overuse injuries.
Keep your Edge
From a psychological standpoint, scheduled rest days can rekindle a hunger for exercise that otherwise might fizzle after back-to-back hard workouts. Mental fatigue can be every bit as detrimental as a tired body and a little time off helps to recharge the psyche.
Fitness Gains Aren’t Made in The Gym
It’s easy to assume that we’re a little fitter with every mile run and a little stronger with squat. Although that’s partially correct, the real fitness gains aren’t actually made until food is in our bellies and our feet are up.
Exercise is a stressor which creates tears in the muscle and a spike hormone levels. Trent Stellingwerff, the research and physiology leader at the Canadian Sports Institute, told Runner’s World that by pushing the body and creating internal stress it triggers the actual process of tissue repair, muscle formation, and building strength. However, muscle repair isn’t possible until the stressor (exercise) ceases to stress.
So How Much Should We Rest?
So how long should we rest in between periods of intense exercise? According to health and fitness professionals, the amount of time that an individual should rest varies from one person to another. This is mainly because people exercise for different reasons. For instance, some exercise to lose weight while others train to enhance their performance in sport.
The only way to know if you’re ready to get back on the horse is to listen to your body. We fitness junkies, runners and lovers of movement can be a compulsive bunch, and it’s easy to convince ourselves that we’re ready to get back into it before our bodies give us the green light. But if you’re quads still quiver walking down the stairs and you need to hold onto the bathroom stalls when lowering yourself down to the toilet, rethink the workout, put your feet up and give yourself the day to heal your body needs.