Why You’re Doing Rest Day Wrong!

rest-dayI’m back baby! I hope you didn’t miss me too much but I’m back and more energized than ever! Sometimes you just need some time to rest and recover. Blogging, fitness, work, golf, Chinese checkers… I don’t care what your hobbies are, you’re going to want some days away just to revitalize yourself. Lucky for us in the fitness world bodybuilding programs have these days scheduled right into them.

Love it or hate it every program includes rest days. Who could ever hate rest days you might be asking?? Meathead fitness addicts like me, that’s who! Well I use to and here is why. Off days felt like something in my life was missing. I would feel guilty if I didn’t go to the gym even though I knew about the importance of rest. Rest days are essential with any training style. Some intense programs give you just one day off while beginner programs may have up to 4 days off per week.

Regardless of how many days you have off you aren’t supposed to feel deprived from the gym! They are designed to promote muscle growth and recovery but you also get the added bonus of freedom and what can be more important than your own freedom?! Don’t just mope around on your rest days thinking about the gym! Get going and look forward to rest days just as much as training days!

Why You Need Rest Days

Rest days

“What the heck! I want to get huge! I should be spending all my spare time in the gym” Unfortunately the human body doesn’t work that way. We tear our muscles in the gym but it requires a healthy diet, lots of sleep, and just rest in general to repair our torn muscles. If you worked out 24/7 without giving yourself proper time to recover you will actually lose strength, increase your risk of injury and waste a lot of time for nothing! But you already knew that didn’t you?

What you might not have thought about is the mental health benefits of rest days. I don’t have to tell you how stressful it is to work out religiously and eat healthy day after day without giving into the temptation that’s around us constantly. I don’t know about you but about 3 days a week there are donuts at my job, twice a week friends want to go out to dinner or to the bars, and at least twice a week I work long hours and feel exhausted and want to skip the gym. Properly scheduling my days off help alleviate some of this stress and temptation to slack (the donuts just keep coming back though!).

Rest day’s also help you from mental burn out. Often times we start activities with such excitement and enthusiasm and throw 110% at it. Balls to the wall all out! Days, weeks or months down the road you will find yourself burnt out. What once began with great enthusiasm now makes you sick at the thought of it. Save yourself from burning out and cherish your days away from the gym. Professional bodybuilder Dana Linn Baily raises goats on her farm and is cited saying she loves it so much because of how distant it is from bodybuilding. Even the pro’s need their breaks, you are no exception.

What To Do on Rest Days

what do rest days

So rest days not only help your muscles recover but also you mind. Don’t sit around thinking about the gym, go out and have fun! Living at the gym hinders both progress and your mental strength. No one wants to be around someone who is stressed out about taking a day off so learn to enjoy it. And on that note, remember that working out is supposed to RELIEVE stress not add to it! So plan and schedule your rest days just like you plan your meals and workouts but focus on what will maximize your mental and physical recovery.

Rest days are not cheat days! It’s easy to fall back into older unhealthy habits during these off days. Make sure to rest but not be lazy! Some activities you could do on your off days are:

  • Active Hobbies – There are so many active hobbies to do! Pick one and get started! Don’t just sit around the house. Go outside! You have been working so hard to get into shape so utilize your improved fitness levels and enjoy being fit outside of the gym
  • Catch up with friends and family – If you spend a lot of time at the gym you might lose touch with some of your friends who don’t share your enthusiasm in fitness. Use off days to catch up with friends or relatives but again plan your off day! Making plans to go binge drinking may not be the best decision so maybe meet up for coffee or go check out that new movie you’ve been dying to see!
  • Work on flexibility – Schedule the time you would normally be at the gym and work on stretching. Yoga is another great activity that strengthens your core muscles while increasing flexibility.
  • Cardio – If you spend a lot of time pumping iron you may want to work on your cardio conditioning. Going for a long slow jog keeping your heart rate up is a great way to relieve some stress and just relax.
  • Meal Prep – Use the extra time you have to doing some food shopping and cook and measure your meals for the coming week. Planning your meals will lower the chances of spontaneously eating junk food.
  • Guilt free lounging – Being active on rest days can be very productive but if you really are tired sore and exhausted take a day and just chill! Watch a show, play some videogames, read a book maybe go to the beach. Listen to your body. If you’re exhausted then take a nice inactive day. Just be sure to remain vigilant with your diet since you will be less active than normal.

And if none of these things sound appealing to you and all you want to do it work out then…

  • Just go to the gym

HUH?! Wait a second didn’t you just say I’m supposed to rest?! Which brings me to my last point.

How Many Rest Days Do You Need?


Each and every one of us is different. We all have different fitness levels recovery times, and tolerances to the physical and mental pain of training. Programs are designed for the masses not you as an individual. Age and training experience really play a huge factor in how many rest days you need to manage fatigue and recover. American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM) did a study and recommends:

  • 2-3 days of training/ week for Novice training (full body workouts)
  • 4 days of training/week for Intermediate training (Fully body workout)
  • 4-6 days of training for Advanced training (muscle group split routines)

Personally, I never hit the same muscle group without at least two days of rest. With nothing besides my experience this is what I found works best. If you think you gave yourself proper nutrition and recovery and can hit the gym again then who am I to stop you! Go get it! Pay attention to your strength. If your weights aren’t increasing then you may be overtraining and not giving yourself enough time to recover.

Rest and recovery is really underrated but is just as important as the training itself. Don’t stress out or worry losing progress from not going to the gym! Rest days are essential for you to achieve your perfect physique. Honestly resting and taking a break from anything you do can really help revamp your motivation levels and seriously lower your stress!

What sort of stuff do you do on your non training days? How many days of rest do you find best for yourself and your lifestyle? Leave a comment below!

 Photo Credit
  1. https://themileproject.com/2014/05/04/mile-806-why-you-shouldnt-feel-guilty-about-rest-days/
  2. http://defaultcrossfit.com/the-importance-of-rest-days/
  3. http://community.runnersworld.com/topic/recovery-supercompensation-time

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