I Take a Rest Day Every Week – Here’s Why
Listening to your body is a great way to know when you can push harder and when it’s time to back off – most of the time. The exception I’ve run into is knowing when to taking rest days. Sure, I’ve read articles saying my body will tell me when it’s time to take a rest day. The problem with this method is it’s usually too late by the time my brain gets the message.
Let me explain. There are only a few times I can recall my body definitively telling me that I needed a break. One was when a stress injury fractured to completion. The other instance was when I felt an odd “pop” in my Achilles tendon that resulted in several weeks spent in a boot.
My body never got the memo that it’s supposed to let me know something is off well before a full-blown injury, so I’ve learned to be proactive about giving myself some TLC. Part of the solution is cross-training three days per week, and part of it is taking a rest day every week. Yep, every single week.
A day off each week may seem like a lot. I’ll admit it might not be for everyone, but here are the reasons why I like to give myself a rest day every week.
1. It gives your body some needed recovery
I already alluded to overuse injuries, but it’s worth delving further into how rest can help minimize the risk of injury. Some exercise experts would think my method of taking one rest day per week is actually quite tame. The American College of Sports Medicine recommends active individuals take a minimum of one day off per week.
The recommendation to give yourself a few rest days every week isn’t just overly cautious nonsense. There’s research to support it. Consider a 2014 study involving 446 endurance athletes. One of the findings the authors point out is that athletes who took fewer than two rest days per week were 5.2 times more likely to experience an overuse injury.
Also, consider that you need rest to see improvement. Like with any other type of exercise, running causes tissue damage. Runner’s World explains it’s actually the recovery, not the effort itself, that enables you to become stronger and faster over time. Perhaps you’ve heard weightlifters say, “stress plus rest equals growth.” It’s the same concept.
2. Your mind needs a break every now and then
If you ever make use of meditation or visualization techniques, then you probably know your mind plays an important role in athletic performance. It takes a lot of concentration to stay focused during a race or challenging workout. Even more relaxed runs take some amount of brainpower.
If you skimp on rest days, you run the risk of burning out. It’s much easier to proactively guard against this phenomenon than to try pushing through it. Think about the last great workout you had. I would guess you started off feeling rejuvenated, not mentally drained.
3. You can sneak in a tiny bit more sleep each week
Those who like to rise early to work out likely see the appeal here. I can sleep for about another 1.5 hours on my rest day, which is typically Friday. I know there’s no real way to catch up on sleep, but it’s nice to have just a bit of extra snooze time. Plus, I know Thursday is one night when I can nearly guarantee I’ll get an adequate amount of sleep.
If you’re a fan of exercising later in the day, you could even catch a few Zs by taking a nap. Just make sure it’s not too late in the day to avoid having trouble falling asleep when you turn in for the night.
4. Vacation travel becomes a breeze
One of my favorite reasons for taking a weekly rest day is that it makes travel so much easier. Though I typically take my rest day on Friday, I can very easily shuffle it around to align with a day I’ll be spending a lot of time in the airport or in the car. If things don’t go to plan, it doesn’t matter. You already scheduled a rest day.
And sometimes you’ll be pleasantly surprised by finding yourself with a few extra hours than you originally anticipated. You can always go for a run when you arrive at your destination. You feel like it’s something you get to do rather than something you have to do.