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Why Are Rest Days Important?

Posted by Tim Mauk on Tue, November 2, 2021

Being an athlete takes time, motivation, and commitment. So much so that it can be hard to pull yourself away from your training or sport. It’s easy to become addicted to that runner’s high or the reward of competition and begin to question the need for a rest day. However, when athletes consistently train hard, rest days become just as critical. Exercise creates stress on the body and mind and if rest is not included, you are destined for physical and mental exhaustion or even overtraining. Here are four more reasons why rest days are so important.

Muscle Recovery

You likely learned that when we strength train or do vigorous exercise, we create tiny tears in our muscle tissue. In order for your muscles to repair those tears and grow, you need to allow them to rest. That is also why you need to vary the muscle groups you engage on staggered days.

An article put out by NASM outlines different signs and symptoms of overtraining:

  • Decrease in performance for 7-10 days
  • Decreased body weight
  • Muscle soreness and general irritability
  • Reduced appetite or nausea
  • and others

Additionally, the article describes the following methods for athletic recovery to help reduce probability of injury, illness, or overtraining:

  • Active recovery
  • Massage
  • Compression
  • Cryotherapy
  • Hydrotherapy
  • Sleep

Maintain Motivation

Rest days are essential to preventing burnout. According to Lurie Children’s Hospital in Chicago, burnout occurs because of the physical and emotional stress of training. Rest is the only cure for that burnout. And, to avoid that burnout and maintain a high level of excitement and interest in the sport, rest days become mission critical.

Reduce Risk of Injury

Overused muscles can force form and performance to suffer from repetitive stress and strain. When your body is tired it’s easy to lose balance, drop a weight, trip or fall. When this happens, we open ourselves up to risk of injury. The Mayo Clinic cites common causes of overuse injury to include taking on too much activity too quickly, going too fast or too long, or even doing too much of the same activity. Pacing yourself, diversifying your training and including rest days are all ways to mitigate the risk of a sports related injury.

Some methods that athletes use to prevent overtraining or muscular injuries from training are:

  • Pre-season physicals and blood work
  • Sport specific workout programming
  • Logging workouts and nutrition
  • Keeping notes for mood spikes, pains, concerns, etc.
  • Working with Athletic Trainers or Physical Therapists on previous injuries

Explore Other Passions

Have you ever overindulged in a special treat or gotten sick from a particular food or beverage? Oftentimes, when people overdo it on something, it becomes a turnoff, and they end up avoiding it all together. This can occur with sports, too. While training for your particular sport is critical, exploring other passions keeps you sharp both mentally and physically. Use your rest day to give your body and mind a break from the drills and competition- play with your kids, go for a hike, practice yoga, or work on a home project. These types of activities can help keep your mind sharp, by learning something new or just changing it up. They can also give your taxed muscles a much-needed break to recover.

It’s essential to maintain a healthy balance. Nutrition, sleep, and physical activity all work together and need to be in harmony to deliver optimal athletic performance. If any of those things go to an extreme, it can be detrimental to your overall health. Listen to your body and always check with your doctor if something feels out of sync.

Now you know it is definitely worth it to schedule rest days, so check out our blog article, “6 Things Athletes Should Do On Rest Day” for more ideas and information about how to spend that critical day (or days!) of rest.

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