The Best Thing for Your Fitness? Hit the Pause Button – Gear Patrol
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Hard work pays off, but to bask in the fruits of your labor, you need a rest day every once in a while.
Fitness is a definite give and take. Give your time and effort to training, and take away a healthier physique. It’s a simple equation, but it’s easy to get a little greedy. You’ve only got so much to give!
Overtraining might seem like it’s a bonafide tactic amass more muscle and increase performance, but this syndrome — yes, it’s a syndrome — can have more negative effects than positives. Your body is not an unlimited vessel; you can only do so much before your body begins to put the brakes on progress. Injuries, weakened lifts, less impressive times and more can all result from not listening to the signs. The solution? You need to rest!
Recovery days are not a sign of weakness, but rather a healthy tool to utilize in your wellness routine. Sure, there are plenty of devices like massage guns and supplements to help your body in-between workouts, but when you’re draining your batteries day-in and day-out, you’re not allowing for a full charge. Think about it, what’s easier, working on a Macbook with a full battery, or stressfully navigating your tasks as you watch the indicator drop to zero?
But just how much rest do you need between training sessions, and what does “rest” actually mean? Here are some general guidelines to help you hit the pause button on your workouts, so you can reap the full benefits of your gym-centric dedication.
Now, it’s easy to sit here and say your body needs a rest, but what does that mean, exactly? For starters, the American Council on Exercise recommends one day of recovery for every seven to 10 days of high-intensity training. This can be a good number to start with, especially if you enjoy planning your training out or follow a particular routine. The most logical, and easiest way to say when rest is needed is to simply listen to your body and gauge yourself.
Are you tired and depleted? Do your muscles ache and you feel less motivated? Are you less focused and have that all-too-common brain fog? These are all signs indicating that your body is hitting its limit, and everyone feels them from time to time. There’s no weakness here — do you think your car is weak when the gas light comes on? Your personal rest needs can vary based on certain factors like your fitness level, age and type of exercise and intensity of your workouts.
Just like there’s benefits to training, there’s perks to not training, too (in the right dosage). When you work out, your muscle fibers gather small tears due to the stress you’re putting on them. Once you’ve completed a workout, satellite cells enter the muscle, replicate, mature into grown cells and fuse to your muscle fibers forming new protein strands to better cope with similar physical activity in the future. This is how muscle growth works, and as with any tear or cut, they need time to heal to reap the end results.
Additionally, your body uses your glycogen stores as energy sources to fuel your progress in the gym or in your specific fitness discipline. These tanks need time to replenish after an intense session, so taking a rest day between workouts allows your body to fill back up for continued performance.
Another perk of proper recovery? Better sleep. You know that rush of energy and excitement you get when working out? That’s your body producing cortisol and adrenaline to fuel your physical progress. If you overtrain, though, you can develop these hormones in excess, which can lead to more difficult sleep schedules and an inability to nod off at night. Recovery days can allow your body to return your hormones to a balanced, level state, meaning you’re more inclined to hit your REM cycles more easily than if you’re constantly hitting the weight room.
Alright, you’re listening to your body and have decided to forego the gym for the day. Now what?
Recovery days, are just for that: recovery. You can structure your days however you like, just avoid activities that are as intense as yesterday’s deadlift session. Utilize the mass of recovery tools available, like the aforementioned massage gun (we recommend Lifepro’s Sonic X). Have some more coin to throw at recovery tools and just want to relax while the gear does the work? Look at recovery boots that offer compression therapy in a streamlined profile, like the all-new Normatec 3s from Hyperice.
Still, taking a day away from fitness and simply waiting for your body to replenish itself is not the most enjoyable experience for most busy-bodies. This is where “active recovery” can be utilized. You can still allow for proper rest and body recharging while partaking in less strenuous disciplines. Play a pickup game of basketball with friends. Go for a walk or short hike. Take the pups for a stroll around the block. Recovery doesn’t need to be a stagnant day off. Cater your rest to how you like — just make sure to take it a little easy on those strained muscles.
We’ve talked a lot about the benefits of rest days and why they’re important, but they’re only one piece of the pie. After all, the goal of any fitness regimen is to push progress for a healthier end result. If recovery was always the answer, we’d never work out, right?
Take your needed days to let your body heal, but always remember to get back to your training routine once you’re ready to go. To close this with a final analogy, recovery days are like a pit stop during a race: they’re vital to reaching the finish line, but it’s very difficult to put a proper time down if you never return to racing.