On average, I work out 5-6 days a week. There are weeks that are lighter and weeks that are higher on intensity. Outside of some longer runs that I do 1-2 times a week, my workouts are all about 20 minutes long.
If I have had pretty hard workout week, I tend to need more rest days the next week, so I may take even 3 days off. But I almost never lie on a couch and do nothing. I try to get in some sort of moving also on my rest days.
Are Rest Days Necessary?
Just recently is listened to Steph Gaudreau‘s interview with Ben Greenfield on Harder to Kill Radio. Ben is a really awesome and super strong athlete who I really admire. I found it really interesting and somewhat surprising when Ben said that he doesn't remember a day when he didn't work out.
It's generally known that rest days are important for several reasons:
- They give muscle tissue time to repair itself.
- Muscle growth actually happens during a rest.
- Without rest days, there is a bigger risk of injury.
- During working out, our immune system is constantly activated. Without rest, the immune system can't “catch up” and recharge itself.
- We need mental rest from working out.
There seem to be many reasons why you should take rest from working out. However, it's probably individual thing and it may be true that some of us don't need rest days at all. I know that I need mine at least 1-2 times a week.
What Do I Do on My Rest Days
Even on a rest day, I almost never stay home and do nothing. Doing that would be hard for me, because my body just gets sore and needs to move. I get lethargic and fatigue and my mind gets foggy from all that being inside and sitting in one place.
To avoid that,
On my rest days, I try to do at least one of the following:
- Walk at least 10 000 steps. I'm using my Moves app to track my steps and mileage. I would love to reach 10 000 steps also on days when I'm working out, but walking is pretty time consuming. On my rest days, 10 000 the number I always try to hit.
- Ride my bike. Living in the Bay area means that I don't need a car, which is an awesome thing. To be honest, when I first visited the US, I couldn't believe that there are areas where you simply can't get from one place to another without having a car. As someone who is used to walk and ride a bike everywhere, it sounded insane. But the Bay area is different and I take advantage of this opportunity. I do all my grocery trips and run other errands riding my bike.
- Stretch and foam roll. These are things that I tend to put off, but rest days are perfect for catching up on them. When sitting a lot, the muscles shorten and need to be stretched back to their normal length. I feel that I do a great service for my body after a 20-minute stretching session and feel better instantly.
Explore Your Area
Too many of us are so used to having cars that it may happen that we never pay attention to our surroundings. If you need to drive every day, use your rest day to walk the same route that you usually drive. You will be surprised on how much more you see.
Last week I had a friend visiting from Estonia. We spent couple of days walking and exploring the beautiful San Francisco.
The weather was nice and the city just gorgeous, so we spent two days walking more than 13 miles and two days a little over 10 miles. I love people who can and want to walk instead of getting from one place to another in a car only. My friend is exactly like that and we had a great time exploring the area and catching up. Lots of girl talk happened on these walks.
Going for a long walk is also one of the first things my mom and I do whenever I visit her. There is a beautiful lake in our area, so we always make sure to walk there and back and if we are feeling extra strong, do a lap around the lake. It's about 18K (about 12 miles). It's a perfect way to spend the rest day.
Rest Days May Be Different for Everyone
Rest days look different for different people, depending on their activity level and type of workouts they do on a regular basis.
For someone who hasn't moved at all for a long period of time, walking 10 000 steps may be a huge accomplishment. For her, this is definitely a workout, not a rest.
For a bodybuilder, taking a rest day may mean skipping a gym and taking a break from lifting, but getting in a light 30-minute cardio session.
A seasoned runner may take a day off from running and do a little at-home bodyweight strength training session on a rest day.
There is no need to compare yourself with others and what they do. We are all different and have different abilities and goals. Just be sure to do at least some sort of physical activity, even just a little bit of stretching or walking even on a rest day.
It's pretty individual how many and how often we need rest days. Even if you are not taking a full day off from working out, it's good to decrease the intensity of the workouts once in a while to give your body time to “catch up” and repair itself.
The most important thing is to listen to your body. When you feel extremely fatigue, sore or tired, it's definitely time to take a rest. However, find a way to move at least little bit and if possible, do it in fresh air. Your body and mind will appreciate it.
Do you take rest days? What do you do on your rest days?