Whether they’re in it for health, to feel better, or a future vacation, many clients want to look and feel a certain way — quickly. While we work hard to strengthen and build up muscles, resting them is an essential piece of the entire health and fitness puzzle. Exercise that is unbalanced with rest and recovery can lead to overtraining, which can decrease athletic performance, decrease the health of the immune system, raise blood pressure, decrease sleep quality, and more. Physical activity, be it lifting weights, doing a favorite form of cardio, or playing sports actually damages muscle fibers. This is your answer to why climbing upstairs hurts so much after a tough workout. BUT, this is where rest and recovery serve to rebuild muscles that are bigger and stronger than they were before. The truth is that muscle growth and development actually occur outside of the gym during rest, not while you’re in the weight room pumping out reps.

Rest is Important

Not so fast, I know what you’re thinking — REST DAY!

A simple internet search on resting between workouts and you’ll find a variety of health experts and non-experts all with opinions about ideal rest protocols for people and suggestions about how long to stay out of the gym every week. It’s important to remember the facts: determining adequate rest is individualized, and includes many factors such as, intensity of workouts, frequency of workouts, nutrition, and duration of exercise to name a few important ones. Rest, in some amount, is required of your exercise routine to facilitate muscle growth, and to reduce the symptoms of overtraining — but how much?

Listen to your body — trust your gut!

 When your foot hurts, you automatically pick it up, squeeze it, check it out, and move on. You listened to your body saying, “Hey! There’s something going on with our foot!” Likewise, the body also has certain reactions to overtraining. Some signs and symptoms that you may need some extra rest are:

An elevated resting heart rate — learn your normal pulse in beats per minute (BPM) and use this value as a gauge for stress levels. Doctor of Physical Therapy and  Certified Strength and Conditioning Coach Dr. Grayson Wickham says 5 beats or  more per minute higher than normal more than one occasion in a row is a sign of overtraining.

Simply put: Your heart is pumping blood and oxygen to those recovering  muscle groups.

You’re tired — It is important to learn the difference between feeling lazy and actually needing rest. Insomnia and sleep disturbances are signs of too much training. Lack of sleep has drastic effect to immunity, cognitive ability,  reaction time, and endurance.

Simply put: Your central nervous system is stimulated in an attempt to heal your muscle damage.

You’re sick — Exercising too intensely can compromise your immune system and  increase the probability of getting a cold.

You aren’t making any progress — Sometimes hitting a plateau in strength, endurance, or body composition means that your body is needing rest.

Simply put: While overtraining, your body is doing the opposite of growing; muscles are being torn down, and training further re-tears them without adequate time to heal and repair.

There is no perfect formula for the number of rest days a person needs. Make sure to account for the important factors that influence how much recovery your individual body requires. Think about your current fitness level, intensity, frequency, and duration of the activities you do. Be sure to look out for–and be conscious of–signs that you need a break. The symptoms mentioned earlier suggest overtraining, especially if they occur chronically. Learn the difference between muscle pain, and muscle soreness. Listen to your body, it will tell you what’s going on.

Mostly, don’t be afraid to take a break!

authored by kenny palmer