​When you’re in a routine and on a roll with your training, you don’t want to think about rest days. The thought of stopping for the day seems pretty daunting, let alone stopping for a week! Despite the daunting nature of rest days, they really can be your best days of training, allowing you to recover, re-group and re-align your goals.

The science of rest days

Whether you’re running or bashing out the heavy weights in the gym, our muscles are constantly being torn at a microscopic level. This is great because it allows our bodies to repair the muscles, allowing for more growth and strength. It allows you to keep pushing for longer but when you surpass your bodies’ natural ability and you don’t rest up, you risk injury as you’re simply tearing on a tear that just hasn’t healed - experts call this Overtraining Syndrome (OTS).

When you push your body further than it is recovery process is designed for, OTS can occur. It feels similar to having the flu and your body will just feel generally run down with an elevated heart rate, insomnia, muscular soreness, poor performance and emotional instability - certainly something that you want to avoid.

Re-evaluate your goals

Having a day off from training doesn’t mean that you have permission to veg out on the sofa. Perhaps that might be good if you’re experiencing a bit of OTS but there’s nothing to stop you from re-evaluating your goals. If you set yourself a target when you started your recent training programme, use the time to evaluate your progress and get ahead with the non-physical sides of fitness. Whether that’s looking at your analysis on Runkeeper or Strava, researching some of the issues you may be having or cleaning those trail shoes that are always caked in mud, there’s always something to do.

Resting will keep you fuelled for longer

Allocating a set day for your rest day/s can really benefit your training. Studies show that athletes will actually work harder if they have a rest day to look forward to and you’re more likely to continue with your training after your rest days if you plan them in advance.

When should I rest?

Your relationship with resting is purely an individual one and is completely based on your intensity of training, ability level and any other underlying conditions/injuries that you may have. If you’d like a rough idea, experts say that you should have a rest day after each intense workout - having said that, once you’ve boosted your threshold for training, you should be able to reduce that as you wish. Similarly, if you’re training one specific body part every day e.g. leg day, chest day etc, I don’t see any problem with you training the day afterwards as long as your body feels okay to. To give you an idea, I have about 3 rest days a month, providing that I don’t acquire an injury or niggle however, I have built up that tolerance.

What is an ‘active rest day?’

Unlike inactive rest days, where you should be reading, watching TV or relaxing, active rest days are for those of you who may just be completely unable to sit down. It’s important to note that if you do incorporate active rest days to your training schedule, still leave time for inactive rest days - it’s all essential as above.

If you’re training for a marathon and don’t fancy bashing out more miles, there’s no reason that an active rest day could have you walking a few miles. Similarly, an active rest day may give you an opportunity to try out a more relaxed and controlled form of exercise such as yoga, tai chi, gentle swimming, walking or skateboarding.

Rest days are your best days

Whether you’re smashing your PBs in miles or bench presses, it’s so important to listen to your body to give it the rest that is needed. If you’re feeling run down or laking in PBs, ensure that you aren’t overtraining and for those who can’t sit still, take a look at some active rest day activities to keep your brain and body moving. If you’re training for a marathon or a big competition, there’s always time. Take your time, rest up and smash those goals!

Information taken from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/p...

written by

Jamie Gane

Teacher of Mathematics from Basingstoke

Age group: 25-29

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