The world’s top coaches and trainers will agree that the optimum training schedule in virtually any sport is a balance of work + rest. Both elements need to be incorporated into your fitness plan when wanting to stay motivated and increase efficiency of time and energy. Even the Olympians fresh back from Rio have a few days off planned in their diaries. If rest works for them, then it can work for you too.
When we start out developing a fitness plan it’s all about finding those blocks of time in between our regular workload and family commitments to actually hit the gym/road/pool/field. Many of us feel that we need to fill in every single time slot of the calendar, everyday. Bear in mind that each exercise you perform adds stress to your body, so if you’re doing heavy strenuous workouts all the time it will just lead to exhaustion and burnout and you’ll inadvertently roll back that awesome progress you’ve made. When the body is physically drained it can create nasty changes in mood, sleeping problems, lack of sexual appetite, and strains on the its internal functions. Not a happy place for you or those around you.
It’s important to have a day off just so those overworked muscles can rest and recover. Weight-training and intensive cardio both inflict tiny tears in your muscles that can only be repaired during recovery periods. This repair process is what builds resilience and makes your muscles stronger and more efficient than before. If muscles aren’t able to fully recover after each session you become vulnerable to seriously damaging them and suffering joint injuries (which can lead to all sorts of inconvenient medical appointments). Take a step back and look at how you can ease the stress on your body, is a sports massage the key for you? Perhaps a stretch or physio session could be worked into the rest days to relieve aches and pains that might be setting in from overtraining.
Epsom salts in a warm bath are a great way to also sooth away muscle aches, pains, and inflammation for a post workout pampering!
But surely the best part of integrating rest periods into your fitness plan is that it balances the other factors that have been neglected by your insatiable thirst for exercise. Medical bits and bobs aside, repetitive lengthy workouts, day in and day out are a huge time commitment. When was the last time you just kicked back at the beach with friends? Do you remember the last time you took the family on a casual bushwalk just to enjoy the sun? Go treat you and mum to a manicure just to enjoy life again.
When your body feels strong and happy, you are motivated to reach your fitness goals. It’s finding that balance of exercise and rest that is the key to continuous improvement. There is certainly no universally acknowledged formula for getting the balance right. It might be a combination of 5 & 2 or gradually intensifying for 3 weeks then easy for 1 week, it really depends on your poison (exercise) of choice and your goals.