So you've just started a new workout regimen. Or maybe, with New Year's resolutions right around the corner, you're about to kick one off. Either way, you just might find yourself wanting to get the results you are looking for as quickly as possible. Whether your goal is weight loss or toning up, you may think that constantly going hard at the gym is the key to getting results. The truth is that rest days are when the REAL magic happens. Personally, I blame the fitness industry for brainwashing us to go 110 percent all of the time or it doesn't count. While it's a great motivator to challenge yourself during harder workouts, you don't necessarily have to do them in excess to see results.
Noam Tamir, CSCS and owner of TS Fitness in New York City, explains that overtraining can actually shortchange your fitness goals. "When we exercise we put good stress on the body, unless we over stress the body, in which case we can cause damage," he says. He also notes that by properly allowing yourself to recover, you can continue progressing, which leaves room for you you to get stronger.
In fact, if you don’t give your body time to recover, you may be putting your muscles and joints at risk of injury. “The most significant thing that happens [during exercise] are the hormonal changes within the body,” says Tamir. “We use various energy sources depending on the type of training we do and our body uses and creates different substances based on the intensity and duration of the exercises.”
For example, if you’re doing a high-intensity workout for a short period of time, such as HIIT Training, your body needs to recover from the physiological changes that happen to it during this form of exercise. “Our adrenal hormones include cortisol, which affects the metabolism and is in part affected when we exercise,” explains Tamir. As a result, having too much of this hormone can lead to constant fatigue, weight gain, and moodiness.
Yes, you read that right. Not properly resting can lead to weight gain. Rest day is looking all the more sweeter, no?
So you’re probably wondering how many rest days are enough to stay on track. “Rest periods should be taken depending on a person’s lifestyle and exercise program,” says Tamir. He recommends one or two days of rest with low-intensity exercises such as yoga, a jog, or mobility drills. As long as it isn’t a workout that stresses your hormones. If you’re looking to lose weight, lessen your caloric intake on those days, eat lighter foods, and stay hydrated.
But there are other factors that can affect your recovery time. Like age (the older you are, the more time you will need) and the type of muscles you worked that day. Tamir says, “If you worked out bigger muscles, which you normally use for heavy and more explosive lifting, you'll need more time to bounce back.” Smaller muscles, which are activated during a long-distance run, require less recovery time. You can even get stronger from just exercising once a week! Keep that in mind if you have a habit of doing high-intensity workouts every day. Ultimately though, your rest days will be determined by the types of workouts you are doing.Feeling sore? Well, that isn’t always an indicator that your body needs a break. In fact, if you are more fatigued than usual, have problems sleeping, lack focus, are more anxious, constantly sick, or have little to no energy . . . it’s definitely time for a rest day!