Most people who know me would probably scoff at the thought of me writing a post about resting. I proudly work around 70 hours a week between my jobs at Discovery and TITLE Boxing Club. Additionally, I’m putting in personal time at the gym just pumping iron or otherwise getting my sweat on. There have been many times when I’ve been exhausted and have gone into over-training mode that has, admittedly, left me in tears before.
My mom is always worrying about me; my grandmother is always worrying about me.
To outsiders, it may seem like I never rest but it’s not true. There’s a difference between staying on one’s grind and needlessly overworking one’s self. Now that we’re in the final leg of Mount Crushmore, I’m hoping I’ve inspired at least a few of y’all to increase your grind, now let’s talk about those necessary rest days!
We have a pretty strange approach to wellness. When it comes to losing weight or getting in shape, more often than not you see newly motivated people hit up crash diets and the local Planet Fitness every day. Most of y’all already know how I feel about crash diets — there’s a good chance that I’ve already talked to you personally about how you’re not eating enough to lose weight. That sounds counterintuitive but 100% of the clients that have taken my advice here have started seeing the progress they wanted. It’s science; it works.
In many ways it’s the same with rest days. If one wants to get in shape, they must hit the gym, no doubt, but it’s equally important that they give their body an adequate amount of rest in between those hard workouts.
It may not make a lot of sense to some but do you know what happens when you take a recovery day?
Your muscles grow.
When you’re training, your body is putting all of its resources into making that weight move — making those miles fly by — making that heavy bag swing. But like it or not, our body has a finite amount of resources to put toward those activities and when you run out, your performance will also run out.
Taking proper rest days allows your body to heal itself. Muscle is rebuilt (bigger), your glycogen is restored and your nervous system gets back to where it needs to be. You feel rested, refreshed and ready for your next workout — a workout you can begin with a full tank you can use to go hard with during your next workout!
Greater muscle growth, better performance in the gym. What’s not to love? And it gets even better …
I don’t always recover like I should.
And let me just say — I can tell. And so can everyone else. I’m short with my girlfriend, I forget to call my mom, I get a shit attitude at the office and I’m downright irritable. I’m always sore, my enthusiasm dies and my workouts start to go downhill, leading to more irritability and even less enthusiasm. I’ve even been known to spiral into a mild depression when it happens.
Simply put: when I overtrain, the rest of my life suffers.
It’s been an issue for me for a while so I’ve made it my goal to get outta there and focus on my well being more often.
I took a big step recently by taking a Sunday afternoon off to go hang at Cara’s parent’s pool all afternoon instead of meal prepping.
Make no mistake, I still got my meal prep in the next day, but for that entire afternoon I didn’t stress about either of my jobs, our meal plan, the bills or anything else that usually stresses me out. Instead, I was able to relax in a beautiful swimming pool on a hot day with a sexy girl, our cute little fuzz-faced pup and their lovely family. I even ate a family cookout-style cheeseburger.
It was an amazing day.
I killed a really satisfying workout the next day, too.
And while I may have been behind on my schedule a little as a result, I was able to pick it back up with a calmness and motivation that I wouldn’t have been able to do had I just gone right back into the kitchen and started stressing about the upcoming week.
Just the same way that I couldn’t go in and effectively knock out 300+ pound deadlifts the day after pulling a 16-hour work day that involved two fight classes. Could I do it? Yes. Could I do it with the same intensity and focus that would be possible after a recovery day? Not even close.
You may still have questions …
How often should I rest?
It’s up to you. A lot of it depends on what your goal is, how intense you’re training and what kind of training you’re doing. Just like with nutrition and workouts, there’s no plan that’s going to work the same for everyone. Most of the reputable sources I refer to encourage a 3-4 days of intense exercise, this means that every other day is reserved for recovery and I’d say that’s about right.
What do I do on rest days?
I’m a pretty big advocate of the active recovery day. This means that while you’re not pounding the pavement on long runs or throwing big heavy weights up into the sky like you normally would during your regular workouts, you’re still being active in some way. You’re doing more than laying in bed all day.
On my active recovery days I’m usually scheduled to teach a class. Since it’s work I can’t just get out of it but I use it to my advantage and stay active by scaling back my activity level to about 50%-70% (which is still pretty high!) I’ll sometimes do a light boxing routine just to keep moving or spend 20-30 minutes doing some yoga or light stretching, foam rolling, etc. Something that still stimulates my muscles but doesn’t wear them out. You get the idea.
I have to watch what I eat, though, right?
I mean, yeah, but theoretically you should already be, no? I have friends that swear by carb cycling (where they take in more carbs on training days than non-training days) but I’ve always found that a bit too cumbersome.
Had to, sorry.
In my opinion, it’s insulting to your body to say “here’s how I’m going to fuel you” on days that you train but then withhold some of that fuel on days when it’s supposed to be recovering. T-Nation encourages their readers to think of eating on rest days as investing in your recovery, thereby investing in your next workout!
Furthermore, not properly refueling with an adequate amount of carbs leads to an inadequate amount of glucose being produced, thereby a a reduction in glycogen stores in the body and a reduced amount of insulin creation. Insulin is an anabolic hormone (meaning it’s a builder) and it prevents catabolism (the breaking down of muscle).
Alright, fine. Translation: not eating enough on your rest days can / will result you losing your gains.
If your goal is to lose weight via a loss of muscle mass, therefor a loss in overall tone, then be my guest but I’m betting that’s not what you’re looking for!
Anyway. Work hard. Stay focused. And take a day off every now and then, would ya?
Ever onward, fellow Heathens…