Rest days really are just as important as training days - this goes for both people and horses. Taking regular breaks allows the body to recover and repair itself and skipping rest days can lead to burnout and injury.
The Benefits of Taking Rest Days
1. Repair - Rest is essential for muscle growth. Exercise create tiny, microscopic tears in muscle fibres. These tears need to be fixed by fibroblasts which helps the tissues heal and grow, resulting in stronger muscles.
2. Replenish - The carbohydrates stored in our muscles are used during exercise to fuel them. Rest days allow for these stores to be filled up.
3. Revive - Rest helps to prevent muscle fatigue. As said above, rest allows us to replenish our muscle's carbohydrates. If we don't do this then it will lead to muscle fatigue and soreness (DOMS - see my blog on this!).
4. Reduce - This is a big one! Rest helps us to reduce the risk of injury. When you aren't rested you are more likely to drop out of form, drop a weight or take a wrong step. Overtraining also exposes your muscles to repetitive stress and strain which increases the risk of overuse injuries which eventually will lead to enforced rest for probably a lot longer than you would really like!
There are other benefits apart from the Four R's. Rest helps to support healthy sleep. Constant exercise can over produce hormones such as cortisol and adrenaline. These hormones keep us pepped up and awake. By resting we allow the levels of these hormones to return to a normal balance.
Taking into account all the above rest will improve overall performance! Over training may lead to reduced endurance, slow reactions and impaired agility. Rest does the opposite, increasing energy and preventing fatigue.
Signs That You Need A Rest Day
1. Sore muscles - persistent soreness is a red flag. It means that your muscles are getting nowhere near enough recovery time from previous workouts.
2. Fatigue - An overall sense of exhaustion is your body telling you you need to rest.
3. Pain - Pain that doesn't disappear within 12-24 hours of training could be a sign of injury. Reoccurring pain during specific movements can also be an indicator that your body is getting injured. Take a rest day and book and appointment with me!
4. Emotional Changes - burnout can lead to hormonal imbalances. Elevated levels or serotonin and cortisol can lead to mood swings making you cranky and irritable.
5. Sleeping problems - High levels of adrenaline ad cortisol can make it hard to get decent sleep.
6. Reduced performance - if your day to day routine is starting to get harder or your seeing a lack of progress then take some time out to rest.
This Doesn't Just Apply To Training
We constantly put our bodies through all sorts of postures and stresses just doing our jobs. Whether it is that you are hunched over a computer all day or sitting in a car, or even panicking about deadlines and getting new clients, our day to day work is like another form of training - especially for the self employed or those with their own businesses. So take some time out to rest you body and mind. As hard as it is to do it can really help you to destress, balance out your hormones and be more productive and efficient when you go back!
What To Do On Your Rest Days
I personally take two rest days a week and on both my only priority is to get my 10,000 steps in. This means I do a good stint of Low Intensity Steady State exercise just to keep my joints moving and the blood gently pumping.
Yoga and meditation are other good rest day activities as well as spending that training time getting a massage or doing some mobility to help maintain your body.
In short - listen to your body. Don't ignore the warning signs of burnout or injury. Let your body recovery optimally each week and it will save you taking enforced rest for much longer if you break yourself!