I love to workout. I’m not saying I love the pain, or the moment when my muscles fail. But I love going to the gym. I love my routine. I love planning my workouts, researching new techniques, and figuring out what pre- and post-workout food I’m going to eat. Everything about it is interesting, from challenging myself to lift more than I’ve ever lifted, to comparing notes with my friends when all the lifting is done. Maybe that makes me a gym rat – but I’m hooked. There’s just nothing better than the good energy that’s built in to people hitting the gym to transform their lives for the better.
There’s only one problem – sometimes I don’t want to take a rest day. As hard as I work out, and as sore as my muscles usually are the next day, I still feel that need to hit the gym, every single day of the week. But I know, from years of experience, it is absolutely crucial to take that rest, every week.
Here’s why taking a rest day for at least 2 days out of every 7 is important. When we work out, we create tiny tears and stress points throughout our muscles and joints. Our body’s natural process for repairing this tissue is at the heart of muscle growth itself. Bottom line: if you don’t rest, no new muscle will grow. Instead, you will continue to tear away at your existing muscle until you risk injury. We call this overtraining. Muscles and tendons will stiffen, perhaps even leading to tendonitis and shin splints or worse. Once you’re injured, then you may be forced to lay off all exercise for weeks or longer.
Lack of proper rest can also lead to chronic fatigue, which means you’ll get progressively less out of each workout. You also risk dehydration, which can negatively impact just about every vital system in your body.
So, give your body a break, and let those new muscles you’re working so hard for have a chance to grow. I know it’s not easy to take a day off when your life is devoted to fitness. In fact, I often feel it takes more discipline not to work out on rest days than it does to lift weights in the first place. So, are you willing to give your body the respect it needs and deserves?
How many days you take off is up to you. Some folks like to workout 4 days in a row, followed by 3 days rest, whereas other go 2 on, 2 off. The important thing is to alternate muscle groups on back to back days, and do everything you can to maximize your efforts while you’re training. Earn that rest day the hard way. Challenge yourself to work at full intensity. Set personal records for weight and reps. Pop in an O2 Trainer and multiply the intensity by training your lungs as well as your pecs. Use it to train those invevtilatory muscles to grow while you boost your stamina and endurance. Give it 1000 percent! Then, and only then, will you feel like you’ve earned that rest… now respect your body enough to enjoy it.