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How Often Should We Really Be Taking Rest Days?

Heather Marr is an N.Y.C.-based personal trainer and The Model Trainer Method creator, whose A-list client roster includes some of the world’s most famous supermodels. Ahead, she shares the benefits of taking rest days in between training.

Rest days are part of a well-designed training program but their importance is unfortunately, sometimes overlooked. More is not better and can actually prevent us from reaching our goals and be detrimental to our physical and mental health. Failure to incorporate rest days into your training may result in unwanted consequences. Below are just three of the many benefits to taking some time off from the gym.

You’ll Prevent Overtraining

Overtraining happens when an athlete surpasses their ability to recover from their training program. Athletes may experience a stall in their progress and even a decrease in strength and performance. Symptoms include elevated resting heart rate, fatigue, depression and irritability among others.

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rest days important

You’ll Prevent Overuse Injuries

Stress fractures and muscle strains are examples of overuse injuries. These types of injuries happen overtime with repeated stress/trauma to bones, ligaments, tendons and joints. There are many factors that can contribute including incorrect equipment, poor technique, a rapid increase in training volume, frequency and intensity.

Remember: Rest Is When the Magic Happens

When we lift weights we actually break down the body by putting tiny tears in the muscle. With proper nutrition, sleep and rest, our bodies rebuild and repair and we come back stronger. This is an essential part of the process and why properly designed training splits are necessary.

The importance of rest days cannot be denied but how often we should be taking them depends largely on lifestyle and will vary person to person. Training split, volume, intensity, experience, diet, sleep, age and stressors are just some of the factors that will influence how much rest an individual requires. When choosing rest days it’s important to listen to your body and use common sense. 

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Another rule of thumb, of course, is to design your training split intelligently with recovery in mind. You shouldn’t do two leg days in a row for example. You might choose to perform upper body exercises on certain days of the week and lower body on others. Another option is assigning body parts to certain days of the week. This allows the muscles to recover before training them again. Again, apply common sense here; if a muscle is sore, wait to train it.  Most people find that 1-2 rest days per week is the sweet spot for them. While these days can be spent totally abstaining from exercise, they may also be spent incorporating active recovery into the day. Active recovery is basically a lighter or easier workout than what an individual would normally perform such such as a walk or yoga. Again apply common sense to your situation, fitness level and experience and always listen to your body.

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