If you’re like me, you’re not very good at doing nothing. I always feel the need to do some sort of exercise daily and often forget the importance of a rest day. This last week in particular, that caught up with me. After a 9 mile hike last Sunday, I proceeded to run 20+ miles before Friday without a rest day. This might be just fine for some, but I’m still coming off nursing a hip injury and slowly building physical and cardiovascular endurance.
My body was practically screaming at me to take a break when I could barely run a slow, ugly 2 miles without stopping multiple times. That’s when I knew I needed a rest day. A rest day, however, does not necessarily mean doing absolutely nothing – it just means taking a break from heavy exercise. So, I made sure to get plenty of sleep and take the dog for a 4 mile leisurely walk yesterday. WHAT A DIFFERENCE THAT MADE! Seriously! This morning I was able to pop out of bed and cruise along a hilly 5 miles and felt pretty darn good.
Rest days are one of the most important days of a fitness or training schedule. It allows your muscles to recuperate and rebuild. The continued stress of exercise continuously puts pressure and strain on them without allowing time to heal. Rest days reduce the risk of injury (which can lead to several unwanted ‘rest days’).
If you decide to not have a rest day, you run a greater risk of injury. Say you take part in a high-impact sport such as running; running puts stress on your joints and lower extremities to a level that has the ability to crack bones and tighten muscles. When you don’t take a day off here and there, your tight calf muscles or tendons of the feet can lead to bone spurs, shin splints, muscle tears, tendon shearing and so much more. Also, when the immune system is responding, it floods overworked areas with fluid to help cushion those areas. While this is admirable, the problem lies in the fact that fluid retention can alter the proper movement of joints and create further injury. Thus, by taking a day off, you’re not only allowing your immune system to help “fix” you, but you’re also keeping it from hurting you.
Endurance, speed and overall physical fitness relies heavily on rest and recovery days. Make sure you’re incorporating them into your fitness and training routine.