Do I really need rest days?

Do I really need rest days?

We've all done it, a big competition or game coming up, those few days for rest and recovery get swallowed up with more training. Sometimes, you just don't feel tired, or you're training opposite muscle groups, so you can get away with it, right? 

You've probably got that friend who shouts, "No days off!" every time you mention being tired. Is it just you being undedicated, or do you actually need time off? We take a look into what exactly rest days do to help, and can you skip them to train harder?

Let's start with the basics, why are you feeling sore after a workout? This one is easy, when you train, you create microscopic tears in your muscles. Not big enough tears that are injuries but just tiny, little tears that are caused from training. As these tiny tears are healed with protein and acids from your diet, it allows the muscle to get a bit stronger each workout, adapting to the regime and allowing your body to improve over time.

Imagine this as a climbing rope, each time you climb it, some small tears appear in the rope. Now, if the rope is given time, and the tears begin to repair, the rope will remain as strong as ever, thus getting bigger over time (in our case, the rope is muscle, and getting bigger = getting stronger). However, it we just keeping climbing this rope, day after day, it will get to breaking point - aka a bad injury for us.

This is why we need rest days, they help repair muscle. If not, you go down the route of risking an injury. We can guarantee, once injured you would be out far longer than the 24 hours of a rest day!

There is an actual condition caused by having no rest days; OTS. OTS stands for Over Training Syndrome. This is (quite obviously by the name) done by over training the body, and the damaging effect it has to your nervous system when it is not rested. Not only does this condition mean you are more prone to injury, it also affects other parts of your life too. Your mood will be noticeably worse, your immune system will become much weaker and your body will just begin to show signs of wear and tear much quicker. So for just a single rest day a week (minimum), treat your body to that day off lifting weights. 

Another issue you may have of no rest days, is that you can begin to notice you're not actually getting any stronger. You're not lifting heavier and you're still hitting the same reps on exercises. This is because the muscles can't repair in time for the next session, so you're no stronger than what you were the previous day. No one wants to waste time training to just be at the same level, you want to progress, so look after your body with rest. 

Depending on your programme, it's common to train for up to 5 days in a row, as long as the splits are alternate muscle groups. Keep each 5 day block to a maximum of 2 x a week per split, don't bang arms out 4 out of the 5 days! This will allow a small rest between the splits, with a proper days rest afterwards. 

Finally, don't mistake a rest day for sitting on the sofa all day eating pizza - you can still be active and eat healthy. Think more getting your 10k steps in and eating less calories than you would do on a training day. Remember, you're working towards a bigger goal, don't let the frustration of not training ruin a weeks worth of hard work! 

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