“Rests are as important as reps,” is the ancient adage from time immemorial. But when you’re trying to keep your momentum up at the gym, it might be tempting to drop in for a few extra reps on your rest days. But is it really advisable?
Well, the answer is down to what you plan on doing on these rest days. Something relatively low in intensity, such as swimming or light jogging can keep you in the zone without pushing yourself too far. Stretching exercise such as yoga or pilates can also help keep you limber for your on days. You could also use this time to get yourself on that foam roller!
You might already be spending your rest days pushing yourself a bit too much. There are a number of signs you are overtraining, and need a rest day:
Your workouts aren’t going as well as they usually do. This is quite a subjective measure, but if you find that more often than not you are feeling more sluggish, then you’re likely overdoing it.
We’re not talking about measuring up to those days where have one of those full-on beast mode sessions and you smash a 1-rep max out of the park; if your workout-to-workout strength or stamina seems lower than usual, it’s time for a rest.
If you’re injured, it’s definitely time to rest. When you’re new to working out it can be hard to tell the difference between delayed-onset muscle soreness (DOMS) and an actual injury. The main difference is that DOMS only occurs when a muscle hasn’t been regularly worked out, so if you’ve been training a particular group of muscles for a while and they begin to cause you pain, you’re better off backing off.
A lot of people swear by a good sweaty run to cure an illness or hangover, but the truth is that if you’re under the weather, your body needs all the help it can get in order to fix itself. Let your body expend energy on repairing itself, and not propelling you through a particularly unpleasant 5k. Also if you notice that your urine is darker coloured than usual, this is definitely a sign that something’s amiss. Relax, drink some water, and if your symptoms persist, get to the doctor.
Mood swings or low mood are another potential sign of overtraining. Training is stressful and can lead to higher levels of hormones such as cortisol. Cortisol is also linked to sleep problems, which can disrupt your sleep and make you even less likely to get enough rest to recover. If you find yourself restless and irritable even though you’re working out a lot, chances are you need to lighten your load.
Ultimately, there’s no perfect formula for how much rest you should be having. Erring on the side of caution when deciding how much is too much is your best bet. Remember, rest is just as important as reps! Don’t punish yourself for having it.