Rest days and how to help with recovery

Rest is part of being healthy. How much rest you will require will be dependant on several factors such as:

  • Fitness
  • Intensity / Level of exercise
  • Type of exercise
  • Age
  • Fitness level
  • Athletic ability
  • Your recovery speed (which may be determined by what you do to recover.)

If your main exercise is walking you probably don’t need to take a rest day as the exercise isn’t intense enough to warrant a complete day of rest, if you are on the other end of the scale though and training hard twice every day then rest is almost certainly essential.

Rest is required to allow you to continue to exercise regularly. Think about rest as ‘recovery’ rather than rest. The better you are at recovery, the more you will be able to exercise, the more you can exercise the fitter and healthier you will get. Olympic athletes are not simply great because of the effort they put into training, but also because of their commitment to rest and recovery.

If you now think about your recovery time, here are some ways to improve it:

  • Foam rolling is a self-myofascial release (SMR) technique. It will relieve muscle tightness, soreness, and inflammation, as well as increasing your range of motion. Its great pre workout to improve mobility in preparation for your exercise and post workout to help speed up recovery.
  • Stretching is important as we need flexibility to maintain a good range of motion in the joints. If you do not stretch your muscles shorten and become tight. Keeping your muscles flexible, strong, and healthy is important.
  • Eating well, you need to have adequate macro nutrients to recover and help your body prepare for future exercise and its important that you have sufficient vitamins and minerals to allow your body to work optimally.
  • Infrared saunas help decrease muscle soreness and increase recovery from strength-training sessions.
  • Adequate sleep before and after exercise is important. It the time when your body is at total rest ad will recover. Quality of sleep is also important and deep sleep helps improve athletic performance because this is the time when growth hormone is released.

Here are some benefits from resting:

  • Mental break, its good to switch off some days and do something different. You do not have to train every day and resting will give you a great mental break from exercise. Having a day off will help you appreciate the days you do train more and mentally help you to recover from exercise.
  • Helps you sleep. Over exercising can impact sleep and sleep quality, you then get stuck in a vicious circle of not recovering because you aren’t sleeping and training when you are fatigued.
  • Let your muscles recover. Rest is essential for muscle growth. Exercise creates microscopic tears in your muscle tissue. But during rest, cells called fibroblasts repair it. This helps the tissue heal and grow, resulting in stronger muscles
  • Reduces risk of injury. Taking all the steps above will reduce you risk of injury and you will feel fresh and alert ready to hit the next days exercise hard.

Active recovery is also an important consideration. Again, this will depend on the type of exercise you do. If you train hard 6 days a week active recovery could be going for a cycle or walk, it must be relevant to your exercise level and intensity. Active recovery is great because it helps flush out your muscles but at a low enough intensity not to over work them.

Overall, it’s important to rest as you see fit, depending on how you feel. The key to a successful exercise regime is consistency, if you are getting injured and tired you won’t be consistent. If you take sensible rest time and importantly look after your recovery you will be able to maintain a good, intense exercise regime which will bring you great results.