When you’re living an active lifestyle, rest days might seem counterproductive. A rest day is just wasted time that could be spent getting stronger or faster! But the truth is that rest days are essential for everyone, from hobbyist runners to Olympian athletes.
Rest days help your body recover from the stresses of a workout, rebuild your tired muscles, and regain your energy. They’re a critical part of any workout routine.
What Does Rest Accomplish?
Exercise creates two types of stress on your body: metabolic stress and mechanical stress.
Metabolic stress is the process of burning energy to fuel your body’s movements. The detailed mechanics of metabolism are beyond our scope here, but the basic block of energy expended during a workout is called glycogen. Glycogen is the stored from of glucose, the most abundant form of carbohydrate. On rest days, your body replenishes this glycogen, preparing you for your next big workout.
Mechanical stress is the result of physical damage to your muscles during a workout. This damage might not be obvious to you because it happens at the cellular level, but on rest days your muscles are busy rebuilding.
Cardio strength can fade quickly, so it’s important to run frequently. While schedules can vary for serious training, the general rule of thumb is to have one rest day per week to give your body time to recover and reduce the risk of injuries. You can also operate on a rest-run-rest alternating day schedule.
It’s important to note that in addition to rest days, many runners benefit from alternating run intensity. For instance, you may run a 10k one day and a 5k another day.
For Strength Training
While it varies from person to person, science shows that full muscle recovery can take 72 hours. This is why seasoned lifters alternate muscle groups from day-to-day; it allows you to maximize your time lifting while resting your body appropriately.
Still, a full rest day can be a good idea to reduce tension and soreness. This is especially important for strength training because proper form can be the difference between a clean workout and an injury.
Need guidance on your workout routine? Looking to get back at it after an injury or time off? Physical therapy can help, and Physical Therapy Partners’ skilled therapists work 1:1 with every patient! Contact us today to schedule an appointment.