On the weekend, one of my lovely clients emailed me. She was on a three-day holiday, and concerned that she would not be able to fit all her workouts in. While now I can look on the situation and smile, a couple of years ago I would have been stressing about the exact same thing.
I exercised every day for two years, minus maybe two or three days. I ran for an hour every single day, and I also danced three days a week – as well as teaching 15 hours of dance a week. Some days I was on my feet for six hours or more, yet I would still practically hyperventilate when I thought I wouldn’t be able to fit in a run. I would run in the peak of Perth summer, when it was 45 degrees out. I would, of course, go running at 1 or 2 in the afternoon, and I wouldn’t see another person for the entire duration of my run – not surprising!
I was convinced that I needed to run for miles every single day, or else the fat would just pile on. I hammered my body into the ground, and brought on simultaneous injuries as a result.
Now I follow an exercise regime which couldn’t be more different. Not only do I not run every day (I only run once per week, for no more than 15 minutes!) but I take frequent rest days. In fact, for the past eight weeks or so, I’ve only been working out four days a week.
My three rest days are all in a row. Admittedly, I would probably do better with alternating my training days with rest days, but my schedule doesn’t allow it.
Changes happen to your body when you are resting. Rest is just as important – if not more – than the actual exercise itself. Contrary to popular belief, your muscles do not grow when you’re in the gym; they grow when you’re eating and resting. When you fail to recover, your central nervous system becomes weak, leading to injury and illness. Too much exercise also raises your cortisol levels, which causes you to hold on to fat.
Over the years I’ve learnt that less is more, and my body has responded – I’m at my fittest ever! I usually train Monday through to Thursday. I tend to take Fridays off because I have an early start at work, and it’s the only day I finish work in the early afternoon. Rather than going to the gym after I finish work, I’ve just been taking the day off weights and going straight home to relax.
There is no way I’m going to the gym on Saturdays and Sundays unless I absolutely have to. My weekend mornings are usually spent working on projects at home and, considering the travelling time, going to the gym takes a good two hours out of my day.
I’m also much less obsessed with getting X workout done on X day. Instead of thinking Monday is chest, Tuesday is back, etc, I just make sure I cycle through all my body parts in any given week. Sometimes I have to combine workouts, but I always ensure I’m never in the gym longer than an hour (including warm up, foam rolling and cardio if necessary!).
Last week I missed my workout on Wednesday because of Wimbledon, so I planned on heading to the gym after work. First, I headed to my second osteopath appointment. It was SO relaxing and I felt amazing afterwards. I mindlessly headed to the gym to train shoulders, but once I got to the locker room I turned around and walked straight back out.
It would have been silly to put more stress on my shoulders after having just had a massage-like treatment. It was such a nice day out too, so I spontaneously decided to go for a run outside instead (I know! The first time in about a year I have done that!). I’m sure the people working at the gym thought I was crazy for walking in and out again, but sometimes you just have to listen to your body.
As a bare minimum, you should take one day completely off from exercising per week, but I almost always recommend two. You should never feel guilty about resting. Your body needs it!
How many rest days do you take per week? Have you ever felt guilty about resting?