Why rest days are critical

Rest is the secret to ensuring you perform at your best in every workout and maximise the benefits for your body.

Taking a break from your workout can actually be the best thing for your fitness levels.

Training should challenge your body in a way your everyday life doesn’t – your body needs to work either harder or differently to how it moves in daily life. Exercise is providing a stimulus for the heart, lungs, muscles and ligaments to respond to.

During your workout you are actually ‘breaking down’ the body. It is during the rest time and rest days that follow that the body adapts to this stimulus, repairing, replenishing and rebuilding itself to be stronger and fitter than before.

The human body is amazing at adapting to stimulus (exercise) so it is essential to keep changing your workouts to make sure you keep getting the adaption (results).

How you rest your body is as important to the exercise/results equation as are your workouts themselves. If you start your training session with very tired, sore muscles from your last workout you may not be able to train as hard and in effect provide less stimulus for the body to adapt to – declining results.

The human body is amazing at adapting to stimulus (exercise) so it is essential to keep changing your workouts to make sure you keep getting the adaption (results).

In addition, if you try and retrain muscles whilst they are’ broken down’ you are preventing them from properly repairing and rebuilding themselves from the last stimulus so have effectively negated your last workout – what a waste.

However, there is not only one type of rest when it comes to exercise. Rest time can be manipulated to suit each individual’s exercise frequency, intensity and performance level.

Total rest – Complete rest may be needed following several days of hard training, a competition, sickness or injury. Most people find they need a ‘day off’ from training per week – and it can do wonders for your performance at the next session.

Body part rest – Rest some muscles at a time by working different body parts in different sessions. One day go to a boxing class to work your upper body. The next day go for a run to work your lower body. This technique works particularly well for resistance training.

On Monday pick exercises for legs and abs and on Tuesday choose exercises for all the muscles of your upper body. You can also alternate ‘Push’ workouts – exercises for chest, triceps and quads, and ‘Pull’ workouts – exercises for back, biceps and hamstrings. The idea is you have more time and energy to focus on each body part within a session and you can do resistance training two days in a row.

Change mode of exercise – Mix up exercise types that work your body in very different ways, one day cardio (run) next day strength (pump class). If you do high impact sports such as netball or aerobics, intersperse with swimming or cycling where your joints are protected from impact and get a rest. Similarly, follow a high intensity Crossfit day with a low intensity Yoga day.

Change energy system – Performing different types of exercise means the body recruits different energy systems. Strength and sprint/interval training works your anaerobic system and a long moderate paced swim works your aerobic system. It is not only possible but ideal to utilise the body’s different energy systems within your weekly workout schedule. You can even achieve this within the same mode of exercise – day one 10k jog, day two 20 x hill sprints.

Active rest – If you want to get your body going because you like being active every day, or your body is a bit stiff and needs loosening up. Get moving without challenging it. Have a relaxing coast walk, do a gentle stretch DVD or splash around in the ocean.

Remember the ingredients for a great body and optimal performance are exercise, nutrition – AND REST!

By Rachel Livingstone Personal Trainer & Owner of The Health Hub www.healthhub.net.au


Rachel Livingstone

Rachel is a PT and Maternal Health specialist who found the gym at 14 through her weight lifting dad and never looked back. Originally from the UK she finally settled her wanderlusting feet on the shores of Sydney and can often be found on the back of a paddleboard exploring Rose Bay and the beautiful harbour.

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