Top 5 Reasons Why You Need a Rest Day- Briony Langley-Miles

Feb 15, 2019 | Blog, Nutrition, Wellness

I don’t know about you, but I’ve LOVED the influx of HIIT workouts I get all over my instagram feed. I love the endorphin buzz you get post-workout. #SorryNotSorry.

I think social media has done an amazing job in recent years of encouraging us all to move our bodies (let’s face it – increasingly we need it! Our bodies were not built to sprawl in front on Netflix and hunch over decks, or crane down at phones 24/7).

However, often something so so SO important gets overlooked amid the stream of bootcamps, battle ropes and burpees – rest and recovery days.

I get it – I’m as guilty as anyone of feeling sooooo good after a big sweat session I’ll post it on instagram and all about how epic I’m feeling whereas if I haven’t done anything, it’s not very photo-friendly, is it? But over the last year or so I’ve come to realise just how important rest and recovery is.

1.Rest is when you reap the benefits of your workouts

You’ve done the hard work, great – but rest is when your muscles actually repair themselves (and if you’re using hypertrophic training to try to build them up, this is when that magic happens!) If you don’t give your body the chance to recover, you won’t reap these rewards effectively.

2.Cortisol, colds and the dreaded ‘S'[tress] word

Now studies show that the fact exercise does cause stress to the body tends to be a good thing, IF you’re not overdoing it – the tonnes of benefits of exercise are worth it, but your body does need to recover.

In a nutshell, exercise stimulates the release of cortisol, the stress hormone. In sensible doses, this is fine, and actually good for you. It stimulates the production of glucose in the liver and increases protein breakdown in the muscles. So far, so good.

But if you’re already super stressed in your daily life, and you keep flooding the body with cortisol because you’re battering yourself every single day with hard and heavy HIIT workouts and aggressive lifting sessions, it stops being beneficial. It can over-stimulate your body’s stress response, and this has immunosuppressive effects. What does that mean for you? You’re more likely to get those horrible colds you can’t shake, and to pick up all those office bugs you’ve been trying to avoid.

Please, PLEASE don’t think you’re doing your body a favour by burning out your adrenals. Taking care of yourself is not laziness. It’s effectively health insurance!

  1. Avoid mental burnout: mind relaxation and recovery are key too

Time off training means when you go back to it, you probably enjoy it more and give it more energy. But not only that – life is about WAY more than optimal nutrition and banging out those workouts. What about time with your friends, that pile of books you always buy but never read (*ahem, okay I’ve watched The Holiday too recently, but I do actually do that!), that bubble bath you’ve put off for weeks, that mani-pedi sesh you fleetingly considered having with your girlfriends but didn’t make time for, that drink at the pub with the guys that you’ve not yet made happen…?

Let’s be a little over-philosophical for a sec (just one sec, I promise!) Life is too short to just train and focus on food to the detriment of everything else. Period. But it’s also the longest thing you’ll ever live… so make it freaking amazing! Take a trip with friends, go to the beach, go for dinner, see that film, say yes to that date… training will wait a day or two, I promise you.

Never feel guilty for taking time off to focus on the important things in life. You and your wellbeing are more important than aesthetics or if you hit the gym this morning. Trust me. Plus, how else do you think you’re going to make sure your body’s stress response isn’t too high? Some chill out time will help balance that out. Why not try meditation or yoga, both of which have been shown by some studies to stimulate what scientists are calling the body’s ‘relaxation response’?

4. Rest days don’t have to be film and food binge fests…!

Some people seem to have this vision of rest days as people stretched across a sofa, cookies in one hand, greasy pizza in the other, watching TV for twelve hours at a time, barely moving, barely blinking. It really doesn’t have to be that way (and shouldn’t be on a regular basis…!)

YES, your body needs rest and recovery. NO that does not mean you aren’t allowed to move from bed all day.

I’m a huge fan of the active rest day. It stops that lethargic feeling and flushes out that lactic acid that builds up in muscles during exercise, while lifting your heart rate enough to make sure all that yummy oxygen is getting to those gorgeous recovering muscles of yours.

Walking, gentle swimming or cycling, stretching, some gentle yoga… all are totally fine, and probably necessary. I’d argue that it’s rare for people to need complete vegetative rest days (unless you have a very physical job where you’re moving all the time!) For me, I try to keep all my rest days active (and by active I just mean moving as listed just now, not ‘training’ – note the difference!)

Since, as a trainee lawyer by day, and a blogger by night, I spend ridiculous amounts of time sat down, I love my hardcore boxing and HIIT workouts, but I know my body needs to recover for many of the reasons mentioned above. However, given how long my glutes and abs aren’t engaged while I am desk-bound, how much time my legs and arms spend totally stationary, I make sure I move on rest days. A casual yoga flow, lots of walking, a little stretching and mobility work here and there… it’s still rest, but I feel great, flush waste from my system, look after my joint health… simple 🙂

  1. Avoiding injury

Overtraining, overwork and overuse makes it so much more likely we’ll pick up repetitive injuries… and much less likely they’ll heal properly if you’re not allowing them the time to. It sounds obvious, but far too often we shrug off those niggles and persist through the pain, and we’re only damaging ourselves in the long run

I know it’s hard, especially if your workouts are something you absolutely love, be it boxing, running, dancing, weight-lifting, martial arts, cycling, gymnastics… you name it. Ultimately, though, you’re ensuring you can KEEP doing what you love by being kind to your body and investing in a little rest now. It is very individual and depends on you and your training, but I aim for an absolute minimum of 1-2 active rest days per week.

It may feel counterintuitive, and isn’t always what the media will say, but sometimes the best thing for your body really, truly is rest.

Briony, a trainee lawyer by day and fitness and health/wellness blogger by night (alongside studying a Professional Diploma in Nutritional Therapy) is passionate about health and wellness, both mental and physical.  Formerly a Zumba, body conditioning and Les Mills Body Combat instructor and now a boxing fanatic and self-professed KOBOX addict, when she’s not training, chilling with yoga or writing you’ll probably find her reading obsessively or searching for a ripe avocado.

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