Strengthening Happens on Rest Days

Mustering the motivation to perform our exercise routine and staying active through the day to reach our step goal (whatever that is) can be a challenge. We might be sore, or tired, or feeling discouraged. Or imagining fatigue or discomfort after exercise with dread. What does one day matter, anyway?  (that’s the voice of discouragement talking, btw). If you’re in this place, use the Prepare for Surgery, Heal Faster recording to reconnect with your motivation by seeing the outcomes that inspire and energize you.

But other times, we might succumb to impatience or feel like we need to make up for lost time. We may take on a frantic “must work out every day” mindset and completely forget that the most important part of exercising effectively is giving our bodies time to recover.

“What people need to understand is that exercise stresses the body, so in order to ensure the positive things you’re seeking you need to allow recovery time,” says Dr. Cedric Bryant, Chief Science Officer for the American Council on Exercise. “Everything needs time to recover, rebuild and rejuvenate before exposed to stress again.”

When I first started my own pre-hab training, I was so gung ho that I trained every day and I discovered this for myself, the hard way!  Clearly, I didn’t know bupkes about training. So I gradually became more fatigued and sore.

“Inadequate rest may lead to overtraining syndrome which commonly occurs in fitness enthusiasts that train beyond their body’s ability to recover, says Crystal Reeves, a NASM certified master trainer.

Yes, it’s important to stay active throughout your day, and we can justifiably consider exercise as medicine, but intense workouts should be limited to two or three each week, under the guidance of a Physical Therapist or Certified Personal Trainer.

Working out, and especially resistance training, actually causes microscopic tears in the muscles. Rest days allow your muscles to repair and regrow stronger. If your training is well-calibrated to your level of fitness, and you follow the guidelines you are given, you can experience minimal soreness and get maximal benefit. That has been my experience, and I had never had a regular training program in my life, and had scoliosis and all kinds of old injuries to boot.

The general rule is it requires a minimum of 48 hours to recover, with full recovery seen within 72 to 96 hours post workout.

That’s why, especially early on in your physical training, you may be given an “A workout” (upper body and core) and a “B workout” (lower body and core). By core I mean also exercises that involve the whole body and integration. Your workout schedule might look like:

  • Day One: Workout with Trainer
  • Day Two: REST
  • Day Three: A
  • Day Four: B
  • Day Five: REST
  • Day Six: A or B
  • Day Seven REST

That way, you have a full 72 hours between “A” workouts. Various factors, like the intensity level of your workout, the total volume of your weekly training, your training experience, and your age will all influence the exact amount of recovery you’ll need. That’s why you need an expert to guide you.

Later on, you may graduate to a schedule like this:

  • Day One:Workout with Trainer
  • Day Two: REST
  • Day Three: A/B (Upper body, lower body and core)
  • Day Four: REST
  • Day Five: A/B
  • Day Six: REST
  • Day Seven: REST
  • (it’s ideal to be well-rested ahead of your session with your trainer).

So your week is likely to have 3 or 4 (relatively) intense workouts, and 3 or 4 rest days.

So what should a Rest Day look like?

Eating well and plentifully.

More than adequate Sleep (research points to the special benefit to being asleep for some hours before midnight).

Activity Level: You would still want your daily aerobic activity, both walking as well as your more vigorous biking or swimming. But you can be content with the lower end of your step goal range, and not doing intervals or pushing yourself extra hard on the bike or in the pool.

Restorative activity: Using Melt Method (roller and balls), stretching.

So it’s not actually a day “off”. It’s another day of ardent self-care, just minus the intense workout.


Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *