Q: Is it really necessary to have rest days between intensive exercise?
A: Thanks for a great question!
Taking days off from intensive exercise is not essential no but listening to your body is! There are physiological warning signs I will list that you should be very mindful of. You can train 6 out of the 7 days a week and not feel like roadkill, if your nutrition and recovery is lined up with your training (I will expand on this in a few)!
What is of utmost importance is to cross train and workout in different ways throughout the week so that the same muscle groups are not fatigued and overworked in the same mode everyday of every week! Don’t get stuck in a rut and stay in a comfort zone. Say for example, you like to run on a Monday, Wednesday and Friday, then I would recommend that on a Tuesday and Thursday you do body weight and weight training, core work and light stretching after each session (running and weight work) then Saturdays incorporate something like yoga/Pilates/swimming into your workout schedule. Sundays you can do ‘active rest’ if you have the energy for it, hike, bike, go kayaking do something fun! If your week is made up of mostly heavy lifting then use in between days for serious stretching and core work to add some balance to your training! This way you will be working the muscle on the weights days, concentrically and eccentrically (shortening and lengthening) and putting the muscles through their paces by stretching on the in between days and forcing your body to be functional!
If by the time Sunday comes around and you are completely wiped out, then REST! Eat well, snooze, soak in an epsom salts bath, drink some electrolytes and BOOM! New week, new you!
Full spectrum, multi faceted training is ideal! Your body will be strong, supple, lean and mean and tired but not overworked because each mode challenges your body in different ways. A stretched and supple muscle is a strong one. Cardio, we all know, is essential for heart and lung health, blood flow etc. Weights promotes increased bone density, lean muscle mass and strength. Yoga is phenomenal for flexibility, range of motion, breathing and Pilates is superb for lean strong muscles and hammers your core! Just to name a few focal points. Each mode of training has so many more!
Versatility is key, not necessarily ‘off days’ in between!
Physiological signs you need to be mindful of (this means you have been pushing too hard for too long and not looking after yourself properly!)
* Not recovering quickly enough post workout! If you can barely move for 3 days afterwards then you need to incorporate more stretching at the end of your session! More water, better post workout fuel!
* Regular bouts of flu or upper respiratory infections, means your immune system is compromised and you are not managing to recovery properly!
* Change in sleep patterns. Waking up more often or tired all the time!
* Change in appetite. Loss of appetite may sound wonderful to some people but it is a big no no!
* Stagnant results or loss of lean muscle mass weight.
* general muscle weakness or decrease in performance.
* mood swings, bad temper and general ‘grinchy’ demeanor
These little signals are your body’s way of saying TIME OUT or TIME TO FIX SOMETHING that is lacking! You may be over -reaching or over training. Over reaching is a short period of pushing too hard with your training and not helping your body recovery properly with proper nutrition, better sleep, electrolyte replacement, too little or too much water. Over training is what happens when you ignore the signals of ‘over reaching’ and keep pushing, this period lasts far longer and can take up to 6 months recovery! Pretty serious stuff!
So in a nutshell, train 6 out of 7 days a week. Keep it spicy, mix it up! Stretch after each session and incorporate multiple modes of training. Drink electrolytes. Find an expert to help you with your nutrition if you are serious about your training, properly refueling after a session is imperative! Sleep well! Cut out junk foods and alcohol, they mutilate your body’s ability to recover correctly! Most importantly, LISTEN TO YOUR BODY!!! There is a difference between pushing yourself and harming yourself!
Hope this helps