Absolutely - we NEED to take them.
Rest is important.
“You don’t get stronger in the gym; you get stronger when you rest”
Train hard and rest harder.
Reasons why we don’t like taking a rest?
See if any of these resonate with you:
1. You think you will lose strength, muscle size or put on weight so you just keep training and keep trying to ‘burn’ those cals
2. You wan’t to see improvement in performance
3. You are addicted to training
4. You get FOMO (fear of missing out)
5. You have a target event or deadline
6. You don’t like feeling ‘lazy’
What is important to understand
You see, when we train in the gym, we’re not getting any stronger. We’re actually getting weaker. We’re breaking our muscles down through exercise and relying on the recovery process to repair us.
Striving to optimize recovery between workouts means a better chance that we have given ourselves sufficient time to attack our next training session stronger and more resilient than before.
But what happens when we don’t give ourselves enough time?
Our performance starts to plateau or even decline.
I love the analogy Dorian Yates (the former Six-Time Mr. Olympia bodybuilding champion) uses to explain this.
“I tell people if they had a piece of sandpaper and rubbed it across their palm until it was red and bloody and left it alone for a few days, it would heal up. But it would heal thicker than before and form a callus protective layer. The reason it does that is because the skin is trying to strengthen itself, protect itself from that stress in the future; so, if that happens again it will be able to handle it because it is stronger. But if you did that with the sandpaper on your hands and before it fully healed you went and rubbed it again, you are never going to get anywhere.” — Dorian Yates
How do you know when you need to take a rest?
Well, there are a few options you can consider.
But what is important to understand is that you shouldn’t need your body to send you a sign that it needs a break. Often when it gets to this stage it can already be too late or well overdue. The best thing you can do is be proactive with rest and try to get it in before your body ‘needs’ it.
But some sign to look out for include:
- Higher resting heart rate
- Finding certain weights much heavier than usual
- Increased DOMS (muscle soreness)
What does taking a rest day look like?
When we talk about taking a rest day that doesn’t just mean lying in bed all day doing nothing (although if that is what you choose to do – go for it!).
Skipping a session at the gym can be a great idea and is more beneficial than you realise. But if you really struggle with the idea of not being active for a day, just try to mix it up in a way which satisfies your needs mentally and still allows your body to repair itself such as:
- Going for a walk
- Doing some mobility work
- Going for a swim, massage, or sauna
If you personally struggle with the idea of taking time off – try to be proactive with it by choosing a day each week which is your dedicated rest day.
Plus it doesn't just have to be once a week - you can take multiple rest days!!
What can happen when we don’t adequately rest?
When we neglect our rest and recovery, we increase the likelihood of:
- Damaging our immune system
Plus, we can actually lose motivation for training (resting actually increases your desire to get back into exercise).
1. You won’t lose strength in 1 week, in fact you’ll gain it due to the adaptation process that occurs when you rest. The same applies for muscle mass.
2. You’ll actually improve more by implementing structured rest into your programme because your muscular and neural systems will recover and adapt to the stress you have been putting them under during recent weeks. This is called supercompensation. Simply put, the physiological response that makes you stronger than you were before.
3. Training addictions are dangerous, both psychologically and physically. You need time off training to enable your body to recover, but also to give perspective and balance in your psychological wellbeing.
Take home message
The most important takeaway is that you won’t actually decrease your likelihood of making results by taking more rest, if anything you will actually INCREASE the likelihood.