Ahhh…rest days. After a grueling week of running, lifting, cycling, yoga-ing, there’s nothing like a day to relax and recuperate, right? Maybe not. Some look forward to those rest days, while others dread or ignore them. We all know that our bodies need some down time for recovering and growing stronger, but for many, putting that knowledge into practice is anything but easy.
There are as many reasons for dreading rest days as there are reasons to take them. Fear of losing hard-earned fitness gains, whether on the roads/trails or in the gym is a big one. Weight lifters know it’s best to wait 24-48 hours between training sessions, but instead of resting during that time, many find it’s a great time to get in some cardio. And it is, and technically they’re giving their muscles the needed rest, and but it also takes the rest day out of the picture. Strength and muscle size can normally be retained for about a month without training, and the more experienced the lifter, the slower those losses will occur.
Runners tend to worry about fitting it all in – speed work, tempo run, long run, mileage-building easy runs, a bit of strength training…how can we possibly accomplish all of that and take a rest day? There’s also that little niggle of a voice that asks how much resting will cost us. According to Jeff Gaudette from Runners Connect, up to a week off from running would cost a 20 minute 5k runner a mere 10 seconds, putting him/her at a 20:10 finish. Up to 2 weeks off would cost that same runner 1:05 off their time, and taking up to 30 days off would bring that runner across the finish line in 23:00. (Read Jeff’s article here.) I’m not suggesting that any runner would really want to take a month off from running, but as you can see, if it happened, the results wouldn’t exactly be catastrophic.
For those on a weight loss journey, taking a day off from exercise can be extremely stressful, since it’s a wide held belief that exercise burns a ton of calories, which allows the already hungry dieter to eat just a bit more. Truth be told, weight loss is more about what happens in the kitchen than in the gym. I believe exercise is vital for optimal health and well-being, but it’s possible to lose weight while doing very little formal exercise. It’s all about what goes in (or doesn’t go in) the pie hole.
Personally, the number one reason rest days don’t exactly rock my world is that I truly love my workouts, and they bring sanity and clarity to my day! During the summer months, I love a run at sunrise, grabbing my dumbbells and heading out to the backyard to pump some iron, or hopping on my bike for an early morning spin on our local greenway. During the winter months, when I put my 4th grade teacher’s hat back on, my morning workouts are what allow some of my students to live to see another day! If they perceive I’m grouchy, the first thing they ask is if I got my workout in.
Rest days aren’t the enemy, and are in fact a valuable training tool. I realize that, and wholeheartedly encourage you to take at least one every week. Making myself follow that advice, however, is like asking my dog not to eat the chunk of chicken I just dropped on the floor!
Do you regularly take rest days? Do you look forward to them or simply tolerate them as a necessary evil?