What’s your relationship with rest days?
In my experience, the perspective exercisers choose to take about rest days can actually go on a very wide spectrum. Where do you fall?
Do you feel that rest days are like a punishment, taking you away from your beloved fitness routine and leaving you despondent, not sure of what to do with your body?
Or maybe you really relish those rest days, except they tend to degenerate into a “resting” fortnight, which makes getting back on the fitness wagon, so to speak, very difficult for you?
No matter which of these extremes better describes your reality, I’m bringing you a solution. Yes, one that may actually work, regardless of which end of the spectrum is your usual haunt!
REST: A CRUCIAL YET OFT OVERLOOKED COMPONENT
In a culture that glorifies anything over-the-top, hardcore or extreme, trying to extoll the benefits of recovery isn’t necessarily regarded as compelling. But while our society’s mindset tends to be that more must be better, in reality it’s not.
While many look to physical activity as a form of pressure release valve, exercise is, in fact, stressful to the system. These demands can be seen as positive, but they are nonetheless taxing.
There’s only so much our body can take before our performance begins to suffer; our joints need some recovery time, as do our muscles. Additionally, pushing ourselves day in and day out can also affect our psyche, which can certainly do with some recharging too.
On the other hand, too much rest just won’t get you anywhere. Remember that you can work through a bit of muscle soreness and be just fine! You ultimately want to find—both in terms of exercise and in terms of rest—the minimal effective dose that will keep you progressing.
Think of it this way: if 500mg of ibuprofen were sufficient to rid you of a headache, would you deem it a good idea to take 2000mg “just in case”? Probably not. The same logic applies here.
MAKE YOUR RECOVERY WORK FOR YOU
So now we’ve made it clear that recovery is necessary for any progress to occur, and we’re aware that “too much rest”—i.e. stopping activity completely can and will have deleterious effects.
How do we strike that balance?
The solution comes down to planning, and this applies just as well if you’re someone who struggles with the idea of rest, or if rest is your personal slippery slope that leads to total inactivity.
Of course, not all recovery activities are created equal and, truth be told, a large number of our “rest” activities are anything but.
As much as an afternoon spent sprawled out on the couch fiddling with your phone or binge-watching your latest series obsession may sound restful, electronics simply don’t rejuvenate us, and are therefore not the best bet.
My go-to activities? Walking and foam rolling. Planned and carried out with just as much care and precision as I plan my training sessions (which, if you haven’t guessed, are very detailed). Of course, you may prefer other activities: maybe massages and heat therapy are more your jam.
Ultimately, the key is this: whichever modalities you choose, the important thing is to make it deliberate. This way, if you feel like you’re “missing out” on rest days, it gets you to purposefully take part in recovery activities that will contribute to your progress.
Conversely, if you’re too easily distracted, choosing and implementing active recovery puts you back in contact with your body. Over time, this will give you important information about what’s actually going on with that body of yours, on top of building real self-care habits that will serve you in the long run.
MORE ISN’T BETTER, BETTER IS BETTER!
Quality and consistency will always trump quantity, especially when the latter leads to imbalance. This is true for any pursuit, be it physical or otherwise.
Now go and start planning that recovery; your progress awaits!