Do We Need Rest Days?
In short, rest days are absolutely vital to muscle growth, bodily function and general peace of mind. With that being said, there is no golden rule of thumb that should apply to every single patient. The key factors here are auto regulation and adaptation to stress. The belief that there absolutely must to be as much rest as training is not true as such. The reality has a lot to do with what you acclimatise your body to. With the right program choice, you can quite easily do a 6 day a week routine, however a beginner athlete would recover slower and require more rest initially. If you have never squatted more than once a week, yes, increasing squatting frequency with the same intensity is likely to make you extremely sore and decrease your strength levels – for a while at least. The human body is however very adept at adapting to whatever is demanded from it in the short and long term. If you start doing an activity every day but not exceeding your body’s daily fluctuating capabilities, you will adapt to the frequent stress over time. Your strength will start to increase and you just won’t get sore anymore. It is like walking: if we were in the habit of walking a little maybe once or twice a week, walking sure would be considered a challenging activity and recommended to be done only in short amounts and at long intervals. However, since we walk around on a daily basis, it is very natural and doesn’t make our legs sore. If you start running and have never really run actively before, it’s going to be hard and make you sore at the beginning. Your body will adapt to it though, and running will become just another daily “chore” like walking.
This logic does apply to weight training as well, even though lifting weights may not be exactly as natural an activity for a human being as walking and running are. But the same concept applies. So, the recommendations of “only 3 workouts a week” or “always at least 48 hours of rest between workouts” apply primarily to people who abide by such self-imposed limitations. Rest is always absolutely necessary, no-one is claiming that it wouldn’t be. But it doesn’t need to be constant all the time, and the amount of rest needed can be adjusted successfully with habituation and auto regulation.
Active rest is the key here, unless you’re injured you shouldn’t be spending all day on the couch eating your body weight in Ben and Jerry’s. Some light mobility work such as walking, stretching and flexibility work will ensure you stay in shape before you feel you can get back to your normal level of exercise.
Nothing feels better than some intense stretching when you’re sore. Yoga helps immensely with mobility and balance as well. It can certainly be a hardcore work out if you choose the wrong class, but you don’t have to go super hard on a rest day. We can’t recommend it enough. Check out this awesome yoga relaxation video by Adriene to get some inspiration.
Investing in a sturdy and reliable foam roller will seriously help you rid yourself of those slow post workout recoveries and lingering aches, pains and DOM’s that you will experience when starting out or trying something new. Foam rolling also has an injury prevention aspect, and will help you limber up prior to completing any workout routine by lengthening the muscle fascia like a rolling pin. Your muscles will hate you to start with, but absolutely thank you afterwards! Trust us.
Working on your overall mobility is a crucial aspect of being healthy. If you are unable to move a joint freely throughout its full range of motion, then you are placing yourself at a higher risk of injury before even attempting to pick up a weight or go for a run. There should be a period of time either before/after training or even on a separate day that is entirely dedicated to improving your mobility. Even as little as 5-10 minutes daily can be enough to see gradual progress. One of the most common reasons we feel lethargic during a workout is because you aren’t able to get into the positions and postures that you want. It’s much easier to do a little mobility work every day to preserve it than it is to lose it and have to work to get it back.
Deep massage is a common Physical Therapy treatment intended to speed up the recovery process of injuries such as tendon, muscle and soft tissue injuries, but can often be performed by the patients themselves. The purpose of deep friction massage is to improve the mobility of the soft tissue and prevent adherent scars forming. The massage is deep (and sometimes quite painful), however the movement encourages realignment and lengthening of the tissue fibres and will improve your recovery time.
Many professionals find it preferable to prescribe foam rollers or Muscle Stick rollers, which can be found here!