Why Your Rest Days Are Important

Several years ago I wrote about my addiction to exercise .  I had been working out nearly every day for years, and avoided my rest days like the plague.  Although I’ve come a long way since then, I still often struggle with finding the time to take my rest days – between teaching boot camp classes, running, cycling, and my regular gym routine – finding down time to recoup really can be a difficult task.

I so often preach to my clients and friends, “TAKE YOUR REST DAYS!”  And I explain to them the repercussions of not doing so (and threaten them with a huge bill if they don’t listen).  (I’m working on heeding my own advice.)

WHY REST DAYS ARE IMPORTANT

REST

Taking a break from your workout routine is just as important as your workout because it’s an equal part of the total process required to build strength, endurance, and muscle. Exercise, especially strength training, breaks down body tissues.  Rest days allow your muscles, nerves, bones, and connective tissue time to rebuild.  Your rest days, and the way you handle them, can greatly affect your ability to build muscle and get stronger. For many lifters, the problem isn’t that you take an occasional rest day, but that you don’t take enough. And not using your time wisely in your training week can also hinder your progress.

I know all too well that it can be torturous taking down time from the gym. If you’re like me, a rest day can make you feel like you’re slacking off, or even guilty for taking said down time. Instead, we will train six or even seven days per week – hindering our progress.  But the proof is in the pudding – the most successful lifters and bodybuilders usually train (only) four or five times per week.  Those of us who train more than that will see our progress (if any) at a slower pace.  Of course there are always exceptions to the rule, but most of us are not that fortunate (or genetically inclined) to reach those successes so sudden.

WEIGHT LIFT

I can attest that my seven-days-a-week training addiction caused more problems than it proved progress.  I suffered (and still do) from over-training syndrome and adrenal fatigue. My cortisol levels were/are elevated, causing weight gain, which I am still struggling to lose, and my sleep was severely disrupted.

We have to let go of the “all or nothing” mentality and the mindset that we “must work out every day”.  I know first-hand how difficult this can be.  Instead, we should consider our future progress and the way we look at our training program.  It we think “stimulation days” instead of training days and “growth days” instead of rest days, would we be more inclined to take those well-deserved and needed days off from our training?  Growth days are meant to be exactly that: growing more muscle and preparing your body to perform the next day.

When you take a rest (growth day), you build more muscle, your glycogen stores are replenished more easily, and allow the nervous system to get back to an optimal working state.  Not only will you grow faster, but you will also improve your performance on the day(s) you’re back in the gym.

If we consider this: Our bodies have limited resources – think of it like a bank.  If you spend all those resources (your money) on your workouts, instead of resting (saving), then eventually, your bank will be empty, meaning you won’t have enough available resources to fuel your workouts or allowing for adaptation and growth.  Allowing your body to rest will replinish the resources, allowing for faster muscle growth and improved performance.

During off days, your body is devoted to more of your resources for growth and repair. the nervous, immune, and hormonal systems are also back to a place of growth and performance.  A rested body (and mind) will perform at a higher level, which means more volume, making your time in the gym more effective.

Those growth days make you grow directly by allowing your body to recover. They make you grow indirectly by allowing greater stimulation on your body during your sessions.

In addition to taking your rest days, you also must consider such things as your nutrition during your rest days.  Many people will lower their macro or calorie intake.  Seems like a good idea, but it would be wrong.

Sure, it seems like the right idea to lower your intake of carbs, since you won’t be burning as much when not working out; therefore you do not require as much fuel*.  (*If your goal is to lose weight, then there is some truth to this.)  If your goal, however, is muscle-building, then your rest days should be spent trying to maximize growth and performance, and not just days where you aren’t doing anything.   Thinking back to the bank analogy, your rest days should be seen as an investment.

So, with respect to the value of your nutrition on your days off, don’t cut carbs and calories that will leave you with muscles that aren’t replenished with glycogen and not taking advantage of the anabolic properties of insulin.  Instead, be sure to consume plenty of good carbs and protein during those rest (growth) days.  Either keep your carbs and protein at the same level of intake as your work days, or even increase your intake slightly.

Optimize your growth days.  If you are training four or five days a week, then you will need two rest (growth) days.  But, to get the biggest bang for your buck, it is not ideal to take two rest days consecutively.  (This does not apply, of course, if you are suffering with an injury.) To optimize your training, your heaviest lifting days should be your third and fourth training days because your performance should be at its highest.  Your first training day can certainly be heavy, but you don’t want to be negatively fatigued on your second day (which should be your lightest).  Your training days should always be challenging.

Each training day you should perform at the highest possible level.  On your rest days you should be putting your body in the preparation to perform at the highest level.  This also goes for your nutrition, supplementation, and training.

Training should be triggering biochemical responses that will tell your body to adapt and grow.  Once that’s been triggered, doing more will simply deplete resources.  Your body should be better to adapt if you treat if properly, including allowing it to recover.  It would be counter-productive to have to take more, unplanned, rest days because it was under-recovered from a previous workout.

If you over-train and don’t allow yourself the proper recovery time, you’re setting yourself up literally for failure and the possibility of injury, over-training syndrome, etc.  In addition, you could spend more time in the gym trying to make up for “lost time”, which could all be avoided just by ensuring you take proper amounts of rest.  We must keep in mind that intense workouts definitely shouldn’t be a daily occurrence.

Your goal respecting your growth days should be to train hard and rest hard.

REST TO GROW

In the not-so-long run, rest makes you stronger!  Rest allows the muscles that you have broken down to heal and recover.  It is the rest that allows you to recover so you can be strong, and thereby handle the increased weight, and increased number of sets and reps needed to gain further.

Plan your week.  Plan your workouts and your rest (growth) days.  Consider your nutrition (and supplementation).  Be flexible, adjust your training, rest, nutrition, and even sleeping accordingly.  And most important, listen to your body (and respond accordingly).

~FB

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Confessions

Inadequate
I’ve recently had to confess to someone why I’m such a nag.  I’ve owned up to my feelings of inadequacy and why, to this day, I still don’t feel like I measure up.  I can freely admit I have never felt beautiful.
I grew up the little fat girl.  It’s embarrassing to say this still, but I need to speak my truth. I was fat, chubby, chunky.  And I heard about it all the time.  I was teased and called names and shamed – from a tiny child until adulthood.  Being fat was never out of my reach.  And I still feel it.  I still feel like it.
Once I was old enough to figure out I could do something about my weight, I tried.  I did my best.  But, I was a teenager and I didn’t think things through and I took the “easy” route – resorting to eating disorders.  Starving, purging, non-binge purging, excessive exercise.  I damn near killed myself and ended up hurting the people around me.  I screwed up my body, my health, and my mental well-being.  I spent a lot of time getting better.  A lot of wasted time that could have been better spent for a 16, 17, 18 year old girl.
And then I was fat again.
Fast forward to years later and finally really figuring it out – for real – the fitness and nutrition part – and losing that weight and feeling better about myself.  BUT, I’m still the fat girl.  I still feel like the fat girl.  I can’t shake it.  Dammit!  I am still often focused on what’s wrong with me rather than what’s right with me.
And so, I often feel inadequate.  I feel like I don’t measure up to the standards some people have, and I nag them.  I NAG them.  I pester.  And it’s shitty.  Because, I’m not a jerk.  I’m not an asshole.  I just wear my heart on my sleep and I think the worst and I worry.  I still feel like a little (fat) girl.
And it’s even shittier because I’m an adult.  I have a good job, and I’m funny, and I have a wonderful social circle of friends and family; but I feel bad.  I feel like I’m hurting my relationships with people because of my pestering nature and I’m screwing up friendships before they even happen.  Because I still feel like the fat girl and I feel like I have to earn my way.
When my clients tell me they are struggling with their fitness or their nutrition or their self-esteem, I can tell them I can relate – because I’ve been in their shoes (and often still feel like I am).  And what’s really important is that I remind them of their self worth.  I have to remind myself sometimes of mine.
Being overweight or lackadaisical with our exercise habits or nutrition doesn’t make us worth less or worthless.  Yet, we continue to put so much emphasis on what we look like, rather than how we feel and on our physical and mental health.  This may seem hypocritical coming from a fitness and nutritional professional, but being healthy is as much mental as it is physical, and the aesthetic side of it should just be a bonus (rather than the main focal point).
Finding out the root of personal issues (like my feeling inadequate) can often help us let go of whatever is holding us back so that we can move forward with a better, healthier life.  Letting go of what hurts us and hinders us so that we can become fit – mentally, physically, and emotionally.
MiniMe
~FB

Day 31 – Reflect

Day 31 – Reflect

Today is the final day of this 31-Day Health and Wellness Challenge and your goal today is to Reflect. Reflect on the last 31 days, the last year, the last decade. Think about what is working for you and what isn’t. Deep reflections can really empower us to gain self-awareness and to improve and become better humans. And who doesn’t want to be a better human? If there is something in your life that isn’t working for you – change it. If things are going great, keep it up. Reflect on your relationships and your accomplishments. At the end of the day, be proud of who you are. And smile.

Be the good.

~FB

Day 27 – Combine My Workouts

Day 27 – Combine My Workouts

Today you’re challenge is to combine all the little exercises I’ve given you over the last 27 days:

1. Plank (30 – 60 seconds) x 3
2. Get some steps. It’s a gorgeous day so get out for a walk/run/hike
3. Do the Body Weight Workout from Day 14 (do it twice)
4. Do 50 Push-ups (x1 or x2)
5. Squat. Find the perfect song and squat til you drop. (Well, not really drop.)

You can always find a workout somewhere. #everydayistrainingday

~FB

Day 23 – Spread Some Cheer

Day 23 – Spread Some Cheer
Smile. Say hello to those you pass. Giggle and keep it going. Leave a positive note somewhere.
 
My co-worker left me this little guy on my desk years ago…she said he reminded her of me because of the big blue eyes. It still sits on my desk and every time I look at it it makes me laugh. Little things DO count.
blue eyes
Aside from helping others have a better day, spreading cheer around is also great for your soul.  Psychologists call it “Helper’s High”.  Our brains actually release feel-good chemicals when we help someone, leading us to do more of the same.
Cheer.  Spread it.
~FB

Day 21- Get Social

Day 21 – Get Social

Lunch with friends, hit up a local pub or cafe for a Games Night, go to a class. The winter can be the most depressing time of year, so stay a step ahead and socialize with friends or family or strangers (make new friends!). Laugh and cohort.

Interacting with others boosts feelings of well-being and decreases feelings of depression. Research has shown that one sure way of improving your mood is to work on building social connections. You may even lower your risk of dementia

In addition, communicating with people face-to-face can help to make us more resilient to stress factors in the long run.

So don’t hesitate…make a plan, grab some friends, and get out (or stay in – together) and have some fun.

SOCIABLE!

~FB

Day 19 – Do 50 Push-Ups

Day 19 – Do 50 Push-Ups.

Yep. That’s right. Today your challenge is to drop and give me 50 push ups. No, they don’t have to be done consecutively.

Look, I get it. I just spent the entire 2018 year doing a minimum of 50 push ups a day – and I still freakin’ hate them. But push ups are a great exercise, and here are a few reasons why:
1. Increase Functional Strength via Full Body Activation;
2. Enhance Your Cardiovascular System;
3. Increase Whole Body Muscle Definition – and promotes HGH (Human Growth Hormone);
4. Great full-body workout.

So go ahead, get down, and start pushing.

~FB

 

Day 18 – Stay Positive

Day 18 – Stay Positive

Hand lettered text. 3d Stay Positive. Inspirational poster. Design element for print, clothing design.

Positive Thinking (and speaking and acting) can improve your mental, physical, and emotional health and wellness. Positive emotions have been linked with better health, longer life, and greater well-being in numerous scientific studies. On the other hand, chronic anger, worry, and hostility increase the risk of developing heart disease, as people react to these feelings with raised blood pressure and stiffening of blood vessels.

Here are a few tips on staying positive:

Write in a gratitude journal every day.  Make sure to be specific!  A number of studies have found gratitude to be linked with positive emotions, and overall well-being, and life satisfaction.

Listen to happy-sounding music.  Research has shown that music activates the region of the brain that releases the feel good chemical dopamine and also relaxes the body.  So “happy” music can in fact make you feel happier!  Seriously….who can listen to “Happy” by Pharrell Williams or “Shake It Off” by Taylor Swift and not just feel like you want to dance and smile.

Share positivity by sending one thank-you email or doing one kind act every day. There are several studies that show that acts of kindness can boost happiness, reduce depression, and even help you live longer.

Challenge your negative thinking.  Ask yourself, “Is there another more positive way I could view this?”  Studies have shown that being able to think optimistically is good for your health and well-being.

Optimists are also better problem solvers and better at accepting bad situations.

Smile.  It might sound simplistic, but research has shown that it actually helps you feel happier.  Feedback sent to the brain from facial muscles can actually impact the development of emotions and the effect is even stronger if you combine the smile with a positive thought.  So smile!

Follow your passion.  Do something you feel excited about.  Volunteer for a cause you believe in or sign up for a class to learn something new.  Several studies have shown that people who feel a sense of meaning in their life are healthier, live longer, and have greater life satisfaction.

You don’t have to let bad news and negativity ruin your day.  You have a choice about where you focus your attention and how you choose to respond to any situation.  Try incorporating these tips into your life and I’m confident you’ll see how the positives outweigh the negatives.

~FB

Day 17 – Skip1 

Day 17 – Skip1 

skip1

Skip1.org is an incredible organization whose goal is to “solve world hunger by building and renovating kitchens within orphanages and schools in impoverished areas; supporting food distribution and feeding programs in places where kitchens can’t be built, and helping with clean water and  sustainable agricultural initiatives” – plus sooooo very much more.  *****YOUR CHALLENGE***** is to Skip1 today. That means, skip the specialty coffee, skip your take-out lunch, whatever it is, skip it (you’ll never miss it) and donate to Skip1.org OR skip it and donate to your local food bank or another program.  Skipping a $6 latte may not mean much to you, but it could change the life of someone else.

Do something good.

~FB

 

Day 16 – Make a commitment to Exercise (and stick with it).

Day 16 – Make a commitment to Exercise (and stick with it).

working out

I find that when I actually “commit” to something, my success rate is 100%. If I just say I’m going to do something, sometimes I allow myself to fail. When making a commitment, I follow through…I plan, I figure it out ahead of time so that I have success. So, I challenge you to make the commitment to exercise (start off with a commitment to exercise for even to work out and at what times. Will you go to the gym? Will you do a video or take a class or go running? Commit to it and follow through.