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5 Proven Reasons Why You Should Regularly Take Days Off from Working Out
Sure, going to the gym is vital to the health of your mind and body, but too much of a good thing can be unhealthy. For us gym rats, we just don't feel right without our daily sweat. We take pride in working hard, and skipping a day or two simply isn't in our DNA.
Hitting the gym is our way of de-stressing, feeding our muscles, and looking damn good. Why would we want to miss all of that good energy?
There are valuable health benefits gained by allowing your body to rest and recover. These proven reasons for taking a day off will bring you closer to your health and fitness goals.
One of the most common types of injury comes from the overuse of your muscles, joints, and ligaments. Rest prevents potential overuse injuries by allowing your body time to recover. This time off is especially important for runners or athletes who perform repetitive motions.
If you're the type of guy who alternates between legs, arms, chest, back, and shoulders, you're still using those other muscle groups while focusing on another. Your body needs time to recover without any stress or load-bearing activity.
How do you build muscle? Any strength training involves the microscopic tearing of muscle tissue as you lift weights. That muscle tissue then repairs itself and becomes stronger at the point of damage. Large, strong muscles are basically the accumulation of scar tissue.
Think about building muscle as you would slicing your finger at the knuckle. The cut cannot heal if you keep bending your finger and reopening the wound. The same principle applies throughout your body but with different time frames for repair.
Although this process seems counterintuitive, you don't build muscle when working out. Your muscle mass and speed only increase during periods of rest. The technical name for the principle is SAID (Specific Adaptations to Imposed Demand). SAID is the principle behind the idea of cross-training, and incorporating rest days is only part of it.
The secondary effect of promoting gains in strength, power, and speed is that you will be more physically able to compete at a higher level after a day of rest. Professional athletes don't do much of anything other than stretch and perform light calisthenics the day before a game. Light physical activity increases blood flow and aids in muscle repair.
Contrary to popular belief, it takes about two weeks of inactivity before the average person loses a noticeable difference in their fitness level.
Refreshing the mind
Most of us focus only on the physical side of working out and fail to realize how much it impacts our state of mind.
When we exercise every day without rest, hitting the burnout stage is inevitable. Anything we do consistently without a break eventually turns into a chore instead of choice. The consequences of mental fatigue are especially harmful when training for a specific day or event.
If you find yourself pushing through and not enjoying your workout, mentally recharging your batteries will increase your physical performance. It's virtually impossible to compete at your best when tired.
Getting better sleep
If you find difficulty sleeping, it may be your body telling you that you need to take a break. Once again, it seems like the opposite would be true. Working out more should make you tired and induce sleep. But, what happens when you over-train is that your body remains in a constant state of alertness. Your resting heart rate is probably too high to allow the body to sleep.
Invest in an Oura Ring or WHOOP strap to monitor how your physical activity affects your sleep and vice versa.
Knowing your body
We say take days off regularly but scheduling them is not always the best approach. For optimal performance, avoid any routines and force your body to adapt. The more you get in tune with your body, you'll be better able to pinpoint when you need a break.
Here are some signs that you need a day off from the gym:
- Lacking motivation
- Feeling overly stressed
- Trouble sleeping and waking up
- Difficulty concentrating
- Muscle fatigue
- Poor physical performance
Listen to your body and understand that it needs rest to function properly. Take the better safe than sorry approach, or an injury may force you into an extended absence from the gym. There's a fine line between needing a break and finding an excuse to stay home.
Also, taking a day off doesn't mean lying on the sofa, eating Cheetos, and binge-watching NetFlix. Take a walk, do some stretching, or shoot some hoops to keep your blood flowing and promote recovery.
Give yourself permission to relax occasionally and develop a healthy relationship with exercise. Your body and mind will thank you.