How to rock your rest day

By Amanda Folk

Tell us if you’ve been here before.

“I was supposed to take a rest day, but everybody else is heading out on a 10-mile run. I’ll just go along and ignore the rest day."
“My training plan calls for a rest day today - rest days are for the weak. I’m going to push through!"
“I’m not tired, I feel great! I don’t need a rest day!"

We’re here to tell you something really important. You ready? Rest days are a crucial part of any training plan. So that means don’t skip ‘em!


Why Are Rest Days Important?

Let’s talk for a minute about why your rest days are so important - physiologically. Yup, it’s time for a science lesson.

Exercise is a type of stress on the body. When you train, your muscles experience small tears and damage. This is totally normal! When your muscles are broken down and given proper time to recover, they come back stronger than before. During a tough aerobic training session (think your speed work days), your cardiovascular system is taxed. Your heart can reap the rewards of these workouts too, IF you let it recover appropriately.

Rest days are also going to decrease your chance of injury. All of you runners out there - have you heard of plantar fasciitis, shin splints, or IT band syndrome? These overuse injuries will derail a training plan FAST. By taking rest days your muscles, ligaments, and tendons get time to heal properly. If you show them some rest day love, your chances of an overuse injury decrease.

One main goal of rest days is to avoid overtraining. If you ask too much of your body for too many days in a row (think hitting the upper body weightlifting two or three days in a row), it isn’t prepared to reap the benefits of recovery. If you skip your rest days too many weeks in a row, your body may be affected by systemic overtraining.

One main effect of systemic overtraining is increased cortisol levels - a big stress hormone. Your body doesn’t need that - so remember to recover and rest!


How to Rock Your Rest Day

Refuel & Hydrate

Your body is doing amazing things when you’re training. Help aid its recovery by continuing to hydrate and fuel like a champion, even on your rest days. Have trouble remembering to drink all of that water? Try marking a reusable water bottle in hourly increments. Now you have a goal for each hour!


Get Your Sleep

Good sleep is an essential tool to improving your physical fitness. Not only will you be well-rested and less cranky (ideally…), it also helps with recovery. The release of a hormone known as Growth Hormone is triggered by sleep. Growth hormone helps maintain normal body structure - you know that muscle damage we talked about earlier? Growth hormone is a key player in helping to heal your body. So go on - take that nap!


Reflect

One of our favorite ways to spend a rest day (besides brunch…) is to use it as a reflection day. Take some time to bring out your training journal or a scrap of paper. Jot down what went well your past week of training. Describe your best workouts - what made them so fabulous? Then describe your not-so-great workouts - what derailed them? Use this information to rock your next week of workouts. Do you absolutely HATE your morning workouts? Try scheduling lunch time or evening sweatseshes this next week. Did you love exploring a new neighborhood on your long run? Plan out your route for next week to keep things fresh.


Get Moving

We know - we just said it’s your rest day! Don’t think that rest days mean you have to do absolutely nothing. Does the idea of sitting on a couch all day give you anxiety? Or are you along for the #CFGstreak? We’re all for Netflix marathons on your rest day, but a little movement is actually good for a body in recovery. Try a restorative yoga practice or a walk through your neighborhood. Want to go the extra mile? Stretch and foam roll too!


Amanda has her M.S. in exercise physiology, but spends most of her free time talking about travel. She thrives on vitamin D, endorphins, and jumping pictures. Check out her blog, Chasing My Sunshine, for more travel stories and come say hi on Twitter.

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