Here’s Your Reminder Why Rest Days and Cool Downs Are Important
When you want to see results from your fitness routine, ‘rest’ can seem like a dirty word: ‘Rest? Who has time for rest? This goal isn’t going to reach itself!’ But in reality, rest days are just as important as regular workouts when it comes to making progress and getting results.
Rest doesn’t have to mean coming to a complete standstill. A rest day for you could mean doing yoga instead of lifting weights, stretching and using a foam roller after a big day of HIIT, going for a walk, or doing a few laps of the pool to work out some of that lactic acid.
As a certified personal trainer and the founder of digital fitness app Emily Skye FIT, I know that rest days can actually play a big role in moving your progress forward.
How are Rest Days Important?
1. Muscle Repair and Growth.
Muscle repair and growth happens when you stop, rest and sleep. And if you’re pushing your body too hard, even a full eight hours’ sleep won’t be enough time for your body to do a full repair job.
2. Avoiding Injury.
Overuse injuries happen as a result of consistently and repetitively putting strain on a specific body part. Resting for a few days will usually help any pain settle down.
3. Sustaining your habit!
Fitness should be a sustainable habit that fits into your life, not an unrealistic drain that you’ll drop in a few weeks. That’s where rest comes in – giving you a good balance and preventing your workouts from turning into a chore.
In general, at least one rest day every 7-10 days is recommended. To make it easy for you, I’ve actually scheduled them into the Emily Skye FIT planner. However, it’s important to learn to listen to your body and know when it needs a break. This involves knowing how your body is speaking to you.
What are some sure signs that your body needs a rest day?
1. You’re exhausted.
If you’re tired even after getting a full night’s sleep, it’s time to take a day or two off. Sleep plays a huge role in your recovery and muscle growth, but if you’re pushing your body too hard even the regular eight hours won’t be enough time for your body to do a full repair job.
2. You’re still sore.
You may have the dreaded DOMS – delayed onset muscle soreness.
This can last a few days after a tough workout. However, if muscle soreness lasts for a longer period of time or you feel like you’re always sore, your body could be telling you that it’s too overworked to recover properly.
If you have trouble releasing tight muscles, try using a foam roller and gently stretching – my Stretch & Roll sessions in your planner on Saturdays are a great starting point. Active recovery such as the new yoga workouts we’ve added to the app can help, too.
3. Your workouts consistently lack intensity.
We all have days where we can’t bring the intensity to a workout – that’s totally normal. However, if you’re finding that this is the case for a few days in a row, your mind and body need a break. Watch out for decreased strength, lack of agility or reduced endurance – they’re all telltale signs of overtraining.
4. Your cycle is out of whack.
Exercise can be great for helping reduce symptoms that come with your period, like cramps, backaches and irritability. But if you exercise TOO MUCH, you can cause a condition known as amenorrhea – in which your period stops or becomes irregular.
If you have been working out intensely and you notice your period has stopped or become irregular, this could be a big, flashing signal that you need to take a break and restore your energy balance. Give yourself a week off from excessive exercise and use that time to talk to your doctor.
5. You have pain in your joints.
There’s a difference between the ‘good sore’ you feel during and after a really tough workout, and the pain that is your body’s way of asking you to take a break. If you have joint problems you can’t shake, talk to a physiotherapist about how you can modify your regular workouts.
6. It’s just not enjoyable anymore.
Remember when workouts were fun? When you’re making excuses to skip workouts, your most epic pump-up playlist isn’t working anymore, or you’re hating every single minute of your HIIT session, it’s time to step away for a day or two.
You don’t have to completely stop moving: do a stretching session or mix up your routine with a completely different form of exercise. Trying something new is a great way to reignite your spark.
What should you do on your rest days?
Just because it’s a rest day, doesn’t mean your butt should be glued to the couch.
Gentle exercise – like walking, yoga or swimming – keeps the blood flowing and prevents stiffness.
This is active recovery: when your body is telling you that it doesn’t want to work out today, but you still feel like you have some energy for movement, a slower-paced and lower intensity active recovery session can give you the best of both worlds.
Your journey towards your fitness goals doesn’t come to a grinding halt, while your body still gets a chance to rest, repair and recover.
When you’re new to exercise, it’s normal for your muscles to feel sore. That’s why the rest days in my beginner program FIT Foundations include optional stretch sessions to reduce DOMS and improve mobility and flexibility. You’ll also find active recovery sessions in your FIT planner on weekends – which you can do any time.
3. Nourish yourself.
You still need to eat well on the days you’re not training because your body is hard at work growing those muscles.
4. Enjoy some me time.
There’s more to life than the workout mat, so be sure to look after yourself mentally, too.
Do a meditation, indulge in something you love or learn a new skill.
5. Get solid sleep.
Try using this visual guide to make the most of your time out.
Emily Skye is a mother of two, strength training expert and the face of FIT, the digital fitness app that helps women worldwide build strength and confidence, stay active through pregnancy and rebuild post-pregnancy. Emily holds a Certificate IV in Fitness and Master Trainer qualification from the Australian Institute of Fitness.