Rest Days: What, When and How Many You Need

Rest days. Some people love ‘em and some crazy people (including myself) hate ‘em. What exactly is a “rest day”? While there is no standard definition, I consider them to be the days where no formal exercise takes place. Although I love working out (for the most part), days off are definitely necessary and beneficial. They give your muscles time to repair, rebuild and recover and prevent muscle burnout. You also get a much-needed mental break as well. Taking a break can also re-energize your “exercise mojo”, leaving you excited to get back to your next workout. Finally, sometimes there are simply more fun things to do than go to the gym, like going out with a friend or spending the day lying on the couch watching TV.

Some people have a very regimented schedule and workout 5 days a week and take their breaks on the weekends. Others, whom I like to call “intuitive exercisers”, prefer to just listen to their bodies and take rest days based on how they feel. I fall within the later group and like to take a break from my regularly scheduled workouts whenever my body tells me I need a break. Just like everyone is unique in when they take rest days, so does the amount each individual needs to take. Some people can workout 6 days a week without a problem, while others can only go 3 days before feeling burnt out. Overall, it’s important to listen to your body’s signals and to take a break when need be. If you don’t, your causing more harm than good.

Here are some telltale signs that your body needs a rest day:

1.) Your muscles feel tired and worn out
This is the most obvious sign. I usually know because my legs feel like lead and my entire body just feels exhausted! Not fun. Take a break.

2.) You dread your workouts
Although it can be difficult to motivate yourself sometimes, you should not DREAD your workouts. If you do, you either need to find something else you actually enjoy doing OR you need to take a rest day to re-ignite your desire to move.

3.) Your hungry all the time OR you lose your appetite
I get overly hungry and never feel like I’m satisfied when I workout too much. I eat a lot more than I normally would and eat past the point of fullness, leaving me feeling stuffed and gross afterwards. Some people actually lose their appetite when they overwork their body and don’t eat, further straining their muscles.

Rest days don’t always mean you have to be completely lazy and do absolutely nothing (although sometimes that’s exactly what you need). Going for a walk or easy bike ride, working outside, etc. are all options for some light activity. Above all though, listen to your body and remember, days off from a workout will not slow your progress or make you gain weight. They will only help you become stronger and healthier.

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Easy bike ride around the neighborhood
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