You may think of having a Rest Day as the ‘soft option,’ a day that makes you lose motivation, unnecessary, or a day you actually hate because you love training so much! But having rest days and an adequate amount of them is an integral part of your training and helps make sure you can perform at your best when you need it most.
Rest days are important for a number of reasons. They allow time for your body to recuperate after the wear and tear caused by exercise. When you use your muscles, joints and tendons in a more vigorous way, such as exercise there is an increase of wear to these areas. This wear activates your immune system to assist in repairing the damage that has occurred. If you do not have adequate rest, your body does not have time to catch up and repair these areas properly, which can then lead to an increased risk of injury.
Rest also assists in adaption to the stress of exercise, including improved muscle endurance and strength, increased stroke volume (amount of blood pumped per beat), aerobic enzymes and capillary beds in muscles (allowing increased oxygen delivery to the muscles). Plus glycogen stores are restocked meaning longer and improved training and racing in the following days.
So how much rest do you need? This is a hard question and is a very individual thing. Some people need full rest where as others perform better with active rest, where their training load is significantly reduced. So you need to listen to your body, and practice to figure out what works best for you- you may be surprised! Some signs that you may need to have or add rest days include, feeling worn out and tired, getting sick regularly, plateauing, and loss of motivation.
So make sure you listen to your body and include rest days in your training (seek professional help if needed) and you will be surprised by the improvements!
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