What does ‘rest day’ mean to you?

Whether your training involves running, swimming, biking or weight lifting, chances are the program you’re following specifies one or more ‘rest’ days each week.

Rest days are important to your fitness and training goals. They reduce your risk of injury. They help prevent over-training syndrome. They keep you from getting bored with your program. They can get you through plateaus. But the most important reason to include a day or two of rest in your weekly training schedule is because it is those days between grueling workouts when muscle repair and growth occur.

Rest days make you faster, stronger and better the next time you hit the trail, pool, road or gym.

But what does rest mean? Getting more sleep? Maybe, if you’re workouts are fatiguing you. Less activity than on a training day? Possibly. Sitting on the couch watching daytime television? Certainly not (as if any of you have time for that)!

I like to think of the days I purposely don’t go to the gym as ‘active rest‘ days. While I’m ‘resting‘ from my formal exercise routine, I still find some way to be ‘active‘. A walk with my kids. A trip to the wave pool. Kayaking in the inlet. Hiking at a regional park. Family skate night at the local arena. Berry picking. Housework (not my personal favorite, but it does need to be done occasionally…).

You’re still burning calories on the days between your workouts (especially if your program includes metabolic intervals), but you’re not taxing your body in the same way you do when you train.

The trick to successfully incorporating rest days into your training schedule is to plan them. You might choose a ‘two day on-one day off’ schedule or a’ three day on-two day off’ schedule. The key here is that the rest day was planned (as opposed to those days when you get up and skip a workout because you just don’t feel like working out).

My preference is to take a rest day after a heavy leg workout; for some reason, ‘leg day’ exhausts me and makes me less energetic in the gym the following morning. However, my teaching schedule often dictates which day of the week I’ll stay away from the gym. And now that I have to fit yoga into the week, my active rest day will most likely include a trip to the yoga studio.

Work hard, rest harder!

Do you plan your rest days, or do they ‘just happen’?

When do you need a rest day most?