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Rest Days: Do You Need Them?

Even while the concept of a rest day may appear to be easy, most individuals do not appear to really get what it entails. A rest day does not entail running six miles or performing a fast CrossFit metcon and labeling it as "active recovery." However, it does not imply lazing on the couch all day watching your favorite show.

Let's delve into this underappreciated and misunderstood idea to learn why you need rest and how to develop a rest day habit that works for you.

Why (and When) Do You Need a Day Off?

To elicit a positive training adaptation—to become stronger, move quicker, and run farther—we must turn the intensity dial high up for some training sessions and way down for others. This is where the concept of a "rest day" comes into play, as it allows your body to recover from strenuous exercise.

Most people don't want to acknowledge it, but if you can train seven days a week without taking a day off, chances are you're not working hard enough.

Does this imply that everyone should be training at maximum intensity every day in order to earn their rest day? Certainly not. So, how do you know when you're training hard enough to improve through adaptation while simultaneously resting hard enough to recover?

The rate of perceived exertion, or RPE, is a simple technique to determine how hard you are working. RPE is a subjective rating of how hard you believe you are working on a scale of 1-10, with 1 being the least difficult and 10 being the most difficult.

The majority of lifters spend the majority of their training time at intensities much below the minimal threshold for adaptation. According to the most recent research, the goal should be an RPE of 5 or above in order to maximize strength and hypertrophy gains. Similarly, your rest days should have as low an RPE as possible; if you're going up to a 3 or 4 on your day off, you're not really resting.

Making the Best Day of Rest

The work you put in at the gym only results in gains in the time between exercises, which means your body needs to relax in order to heal and adapt.

While some of the top athletes swear by special pills, gadgets, and strange rituals, there is no need to invest in a bunch of recovery voodoo. You already have everything you need, and while good rest days aren't difficult to achieve, they do include a few behaviors that require some practice and organization.

Here's what a perfect rest day looks like for me:

  • You've had a good night's sleep.

  • Go for a walk with the dogs to get some fresh air.

  • Go for a sauna session and perhaps some contrast therapy with an ice bath.

  • Take a seat and read a good book.

  • Consume nutritious foods throughout the day, preferably those prepared at home.

Let's take a look at some of the most important components of this ideal relaxation day.

It all starts with getting enough sleep, which is critical for recuperation.

Then there's the dog walking, which provides just enough activity to get the muscles heated and the blood flowing but isn't too rigorous to create further wear and strain on the body.

Heat and ice are both tried and true therapies for alleviating muscle pain, which is why a sauna session, a hot bath, or a relaxing plunge in the pool are all excellent rest day activities.

Resting the mind is just as vital as resting the body, so put down the phone and read a good book or meditate. And, of course, nutritious food is essential on every given day.

Is it scientifically proved that all of these items lessen muscle soreness, increase growth, and prevent male-pattern baldness? No, but it isn't the point. There is some indirect evidence that these activities may aid in exercise recovery, but the objective is to identify hobbies and routines that help you relax and recover.

Consistent Sleeping Equals Gains that are Consistent

Without a consistent rest day plan, it's nearly impossible to maintain a consistent training regimen. Don't skip the "rest day" section of your training plan.

Consider a day off from the gym to be a skill that must be practiced just as hard as your workouts. Rest day traditions are in place to ensure regularity. When the exercise becomes difficult, rest becomes even more necessary.

Create your own rest day schedule and mark off rest day tasks as you would sets in a workout. This will assist you in developing healthy recovery day habits and providing your body with the rest it requires to adapt and flourish.



My name is Steven Goldstein

With over 10 years of experience in the fitness industry, I have worked with clients of all ages and fitness levels. From professional athletes to individuals aiming to lose weight, I have helped countless people achieve their goals and improve their overall health through customized training and nutrition plans.

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Consistency leaves clues

Hundreds of clients of all ages, backgrounds, and abilities have put their health in our hands over the years and achieved truly remarkable results. 

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