When embarking on a new exercise regime, or setting yourself a training programme, a common mistake many make is to adopt the “all or nothing” approach. We throw ourselves into a cycle of working hard, training hard and sleeping little only to repeat it all over again: all whilst reducing the number of calories we eat in a bid to get that body we long for.
However this is not always the correct approach and here’s why:
First and foremost, a training programme needs to be sustainable. The whole point of exercise really, no matter what your speciﬁc goals, is to make us ﬁtter & healthier and surely this is a lifelong pursuit? Our training programme therefore has to be realistic, one which we know will ﬁt in with our hectic schedules. It’s far better to have a training programme you know you can commit to long term, rather than going all out training five or six times a week, only to then crash and burn.
Get the balance between training and rest days right and exercise will eventually ﬁt into your busy schedule without you even noticing. There is however a more scientiﬁc reason as to why rest days are so important. Every time we exercise we sustain lots of tiny muscle ﬁbre tears. The following 24-72 hours are then an essential time for the body to get to work in repairing those muscle ﬁbres. It takes a full 72 hours for the body to complete one full metabolic cycle, which promotes the healing of any torn tissue.
The good news is the ﬁbres rebuild themselves a little bit stronger each time, resulting in the improved muscle tone and mass we all set out to achieve. The bad news is that if we don’t allow the body to go through this recovery process, we then put ourselves at risk of injury, and worst case burnout.
So it is important to purposefully build rest days into your programme, and also to vary the muscle groups you focus on, never working the same muscle groups two consecutive days. An example of a sensible well balanced weekly training programme might be:
Monday – Lower body strength/resistance training
Tuesday – Active recovery/Rest
Wednesday – Cardio and core
Thursday – Upper body strength/resistance training
Friday – Active recovery/Rest
Saturday – Cardio & core
Sunday – Complete rest (perhaps a nice hot bath with Epsom Salts!)
So what can you do on your rest days? I’ve got another post coming up soon that will offer you some advice and tips on “active recovery” and suggestions of things you can add into your rest days to ensure your body has sufficient time to recuperate.