I have a love/hate relationship with rest days. Part of me loves the thought of doing nothing but relaxing on the couch, watching TV, scrolling through Instagram and being lazy. The other part of me feels like I am wasting valuable time that I could be better spent being active, productive, and accomplishing something.
Most of the time when I have scheduled rest days (days off from the gym) I end up filling that time with errands, housework, meeting up with friends, etc.I often get that voice in my head saying “you should be working out, you’re going to lose progress by doing nothing, you have the time, quit being lazy.” I know that a lot of people feel the same way – that nagging, guilty feeling that you should be in the gym and not the couch.
None of this is true! Rest is SUCH an important part of an active lifestyle! Consistent muscle activation without allowing them time to repair will often cause injuries, inevitably putting you into a rest stage for an extended period of time.
Muscles are built through the tear and repair process: after you work out, your body repairs or replaces damaged muscle fibers through a cellular process where it fuses muscle fibers together to form new muscle protein strands, or myofibrils. These repaired myofibrils increase in thickness and in number to create muscle hypertrophy (growth). Without giving your fibers time to create myofibrils, your muscle gains will be minimal.
The important thing to remember is balance – I typically schedule one rest day per week, and sometimes will take two depending on how sore my body is and how busy my schedule is that week. Too much rest will obviously put you on a backwards track after an extended period of time!
That said – I haven’t been able to work out since last Sunday (June 5) when I led the June YYC BBG Meet Up – I planned to head to the gym Monday after work but my entire body was screaming – I don’t tend to get obnoxiously sore anymore (thank God), and I could barely lift my arms without wincing, so I chose to listen to my body and take a rest day. Tuesday I woke up with what I thought was a cold, Wednesday and Thursday it was even worse and I missed work, and was eventually diagnosed with a viral lung infection over the weekend.
This means no exercise for me. It’s been a week and a half and I am beyond antsy to get back to my routine and to my gym! Unfortunately, until this clears up I can’t do any workouts. Breathing is a bit labored yet, so elevating my heart rate and gasping for air probably isn’t the best idea for me right now, and would likely make it worse!
So I rest. I’m not completely idle, I do try to get my steps in by walking around the office and taking the stairs if it’s only one flight (I tried to do more, I had to sit down after that) so that my body still gets some activity! Ideally I would like to be able to head to the gym for some LISS (low impact steady state cardio) this weekend but I will see what my body decides about that Saturday morning!
Listen to your body and take care of it! The progress will come, as long as you keep going.