I’ve had a stomach bug, or possibly food poisoning for the past two weeks and haven’t been able to shake it. I wound up staying home a few days to rest…and of course it was when that they are putting in our granite countertops..awesome. Instead of laying on the couch with daytime TV shows, soup, and saltines, I wound up moving furniture surrounded by sweaty mexicans lugging 1000lb pieces of granite and inhaling a bunch of toxic chemicals. So much for peace and quiet. That leads me to a topic I have been wanting to write about for quite some time; the importance of rest/recovery in your training.
There are a lot of people at my box who are there EVERY SINGLE DAY with no breaks. These people often say things like “I’m still so sore from three days ago” or “I have been lifting every day and I’m not getting any stronger” (you know who you are). Well I just may have a solution for you! Its called…
… a rest day….
Wait.. what?! take a day… off? But I’ll gain a bajillion pounds! I will get weaker! I can’t miss the WOD!!
Yup. You can! I promise. In fact, I’ve taken pretty much a whole week off at this point (mainly because I felt sick) but I always take a day or two off every week.
Wondering why you should program rest days into your training? Here’s just a few reasons for ya:
- Muscles repair and grow during rest. Weightlifting causes tiny tears in your muscles which repair themselves during the recovery period. This means that if you never take the time to rest, your muscles will never fully recover and grow stronger.
- Immediately after your workout, your body needs to replenish energy stores and fluids lost during exercise. The process of “protein synthesis” is where an increase in protein is added to muscle cells, which prevents muscle breakdown and increases muscle size. This is protein shakes are a popular post-workout recovery drink. If your like me and can’t tolerate protein powder, this can also be achieved by eating the right foods.
- You’ll plateau. If you don’t take the time to allow your body to recover, it will continue to break down instead of build, and you’ll never get that PR you are striving for.
- You need the break mentally. If you start to dread going to the gym and consider it to be a burden more than a stress release, you probably need a break. Try something new… go for a walk/hike, paddleboard, go rock climbing, anything! If you normally run, try weightlifting. If you usually do CrossFit, try a boxing class. Anything that will take you out of your comfort zone.
- The probability of injury decreases with proper recovery. While in any sport or intense exercise the risk of injury always exists, you can minimize the your chances of getting hurt by properly taking care of your body. This means stretching and mobility before and after a workout (I typically do yoga on my rest days to supplement my weightlifting), as well as heat/ice when you do have soreness. Self-myofascial release (foam rolling) is a fantastic way to reduce muscle soreness and loosen up tight muscles. (See over-training syndrome)
- In addition to simply taking the day off, proper sleep, nutrition, and water intake are crucial to your performance in the gym. If you’re not getting enough water or sleep, your body is never going to perform at its optimal level; and of course.. you cant out train a bad diet.
- You can actually be obsessed with exercising. Feeling guilty about not exercising, pushing yourself when injured, or neglecting other parts of your life in order to achieve a goal are all symptoms of this condition. (Note, there is a difference between loving to exercise and having an unhealthy obsession, I’m not hating fitness enthusiasts, I obviously am one)
If these aren’t enough to convince you, I took a last week off from training completely and this week I PR’ed my deadlift and back squat!!
What’s your favorite way to recover from a workout? Feel free to share in the comments section, as well as any new PR’s! (personal records).