How many times do you train during a week? 3? 5?? 7??? Why do you train that many days? Is it life that limits you? Or, are you listening to your body? Have you ever reached the end of the week and felt like your workouts aren’t as good as the beginning of the week? If so, you probably need a rest day. A rest day? What the heck is that?
What is a Rest Day?
It’s quite simple really. A rest day is a day you spend outside of the gym not working out. It is a day of recovery. It is taking a day off so that you can come back bigger, stronger, and faster. But, we know, it seems counter intuitive to do nothing in hopes of being able to do more.
When we workout, especially in high intensity settings like CrossFit, we break down our body. We tear our muscle fibers, disrupt hormones, increase our risk of injury, and more. Think of it like this, everything in life has a limited store of energy. It will eventually burn out. Your body is no different. As you use your body various systems run out of energy and shut down. Eventually, you will shut down. Therefore, strategically keeping yourself charged will make sure you are firing in all systems. So, here are some important reasons to take a rest:
3 Reasons to Take a Rest Day
- To Rebuild Your Body. When you workout, you break down your muscles. Lifting weights causes micro tears in your muscles. The repair of those tears causes your muscle to grow and adapt. That’s how you get stronger. Your body doesn’t like it when lifting 135# causes micro tears, so it is going to adapt and make it harder for tears to form at 135#. This repair process takes time and happens when you rest. Therefore, if you don’t rest, you don’t repair and you will stunt your strength gains.
- Disrupting Hormones. A long long time ago, hormones in your body helped you react to dangers in life. If you encountered a man eating lion, your adrenaline increased and your digestive system shut down so you could run away as fast as possible. Intense workouts cause these same hormonal reactions in your body. It isn’t good for you to be in this heightened state all the time. Give yourself a rest so your hormones can normalize.
- Overtraining Will Lead To Injury: As we mentioned above, various systems in your body will shut down when they are spent of energy. When your body isn’t pumping at 100%, you increase your chances for injury. Imagine for a moment that you are deadlifting a heavy weight. What is the most important thing you need to do to avoid injury? Brace your core and maintain a flat supported spine. However, imagine further that you are super fatigued today because you haven’t taken a rest day. You now increase the changes that your core muscles are going to give out under this heavy load. If so, you may just injure yourself.
The goal is to find that sweet spot between pushing yourself hard and knowing when to rest. You want to find that line right before your breaking point and then rest to maximize your gains. However, that is a super hard line to find and can be dangerous to flirt with. CrossFit recommends a 3 on 1 off training schedule. There are other tools out there, like a Whoop bracelet, that will help guide you on when a rest day is needed. Bottom line, listen to your body. If you are so tired and sore that it is hard to move, if you are feeling unmotivated and like you are in a fog, take a rest day. You will be better for it in the long run.