The importance of rest days when training

One of the most important, yet overlooked, aspects of any exercise or training program is the recovery phase, or time spent resting. Athletes often think that rest time is a period of doing no work, but while you are not actually doing any physical work, physiologically your body is seizing the opportunity to repair itself to become stronger in preparation for the next exercise stress placed upon it. It is during rest that the body becomes stronger.

Rest days are also vital for the following;

  •  Prevents overuse injuries
  •  Restores glycogen stores
  •  Prevents mental burnout

Building recovery time into any training program is important because this is the time that the body adapts to the stress of exercise and the real training effect takes place. Recovery also allows the body to replenish energy stores and repair damaged tissues. Exercise or any other physical work causes changes in the body such as muscle tissue breakdown and the reduction of energy stores (muscle glycogen) as well as fluid loss.

Recovery time allows these stores to be replenished and allows tissue repair to take place. Without enough time to repair and replenish, the body will continue to breakdown from intensive exercise.

Symptoms of overtraining often occur from a lack of recovery time, rest days.

Signs of overtraining include;

  • Decreased performance
  • Decreased immunity
  • Fatigue
  • Change in moods/ depressed
  • Difficulty sleeping
  • Muscle soreness
  • Increase of injuries

Don't feel guilty. Rest and recovery is not the same as skipping a workout. Successful athletes and fitness enthusiasts on every level build this crucial part of training into their routines.

Take at least one actual day of rest each week. This is important for both mental and physical health. If you feel that you have to do something, try stretching, yoga or an easy activity such as a walk in the park. Your day of rest will rejuvenate you for your next few days of workouts.

Most coaches and elite runners suggest you should take off one week after a 5K training cycle, seven to10 days off after a 10k or half marathon, and a full two weeks off after a marathon. It might sound like you would be holding yourself back by being so cautious, but your long-term progression will actually benefit.

Article by Gemma Sibcy, Chart Clinic Sports Massage Therapist.

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