In many ways, working out is as much about mindset as it is about physical exertion. When we get into the habit of exercising every day, we enter into a self-sustaining mentality that makes us want to do better, work harder, and continue the progress we have been making over those past days and weeks.
As such, it can get harder and harder for us to feel willing to take a break. Cutting an entire day out of our workout regimen can feel, to the dedicated athlete, like a real blow to their progress, and a slippery slope toward regression.
Still, however, fitness experts harp on about the value of ‘rest days’ – days totally devoid of the gym, the workout mat, the running shoes, and the weights – and for good reason. They give our muscles the opportunity to rebuild themselves stronger and tougher, and for the body to assimilate the progress we have made every other day of the week.
Know Why it’s Important
When it comes to working out, progress is not linear – at least, not in the way we think it is. Building strength and growing muscles first requires them to break down before they rebuild themselves stronger and more resilient to exercise.
If we work out every day, we are continuing to break down those muscles without giving them a real opportunity to rebuild themselves, which will mean that progress ends up being slower and more difficult than it would be if we allowed ourselves a break every week or so.
Structure it Around Something Else You Love
You will never get the most out of your day’s off if you don’t learn to embrace other interests, hobbies, and passions. Indulging something we love, like watching a movie or two on Netflix, reading a good book or playing the best slot machines on your smartphone, will allow you to relax into your time off fully, and to reap the full benefit of your hard work.
The progress you make on your rest days is, unlike the progress you make in the gym, intangible – but it is still happening. Focus on something absorbing, and you will notice the benefits when you get back to the grind tomorrow.
Refuel Your Body
Your body needs to be nourished as much as your mind does, so use your rest day to invest a little more time and attention into your meals. The perfect rest day diet will feature plenty of good carbohydrates and proteins, and with a little extra time in the evenings there’s no excuse for skimping on the prep.
Create a Strict Workout/Rest Day Schedule
It is easy to skip rest days and go off track if you do not have a plan; in order to stay on-track, you should create a schedule. You can do this every week to stay organized and make sure that you do not fall behind. Setting aside an entire day for other pursuits can feel counterproductive, but it is healthy for your mind as much as it is for your body. If you can create a schedule, it will be much easier to stick to, and will ensure that you keep on track each week.