Grow days – A Sport Therapist’s view.

Grow Days are the new Rest Days and yes, you need them.

A couple of weeks back I interviewed my good friend and fellow CrossFitter, Demi Stephens, about how she overcame her aversion to rest days – if you missed it, you can read it here:

The response to that interview has been big and a lot of you have positively responded to it, telling me that changing the way you think about it, and even just renaming it, has allowed you to build a better relationship with the rest day. 

However, I know there are some of you that are either still not convinced, or still struggling to get your brain to get on board. You know its a good thing to do but still, that little voice inside your head is telling you to stop being lazy, get up, get out etc etc. 

I decided to reach out to another one of the people inside my village to look at it from a slightly different angle. I asked my friend Louise, a Sports Therapist and owner of LP Sports Massage, to give me her thoughts.

Here’s what she had to say:

First off Louise, have you ever struggled with taking rest days or have you always embraced them?

I have actually always tried to have at least one day but definitely when I was new to the gym I would try and do a fitness class or my own hit session pretty much every day and it also became a routine. Its only now that I see the benefit of giving my body time to recover so I altered my routine and aim to have rest days on a Thursday and Sunday to split my week out. I try and listen to my body though and if I need to move a rest day around because I am feeling fatigued and aching I will, so I can hit my session hard the following day and get the most out of it.

If you struggled, why do you think that was? 

Probably the fear of missing out on a workout because I enjoyed Group Exercise classes (pre CrossFit love). And I thought, initially before getting better educated about nutrition and the big part is has to play, that training every day was the way to get fit and lose weight.

Demi now thinks of them as Grow days, as these days off help her ‘grow her muscles’. For those that are still struggling with this idea… without getting too technical, can you break this down a little more?

Your muscles store carbs in the form of  Glycogen which are used during exercises. Rest allows you to replenish these stores before your next bout of exercise. When they are depleted and the stores aren’t replaced you experience muscle fatigue and soreness know as DOMS.

Muscles also need rest to repair the microscopic tears that exercise causes, to help make them get stronger and also fight through plateaus in training. The rest days are actually when this magic happens! 

If you try and workout whilst fatigued even the most basic movements feel hard work and your technique falls down. If you can’t do the basics then you definitely shouldn’t be pushing your body to add weights to the mix. 

I talk to my clients all the time about the dangers of overtraining. The two big ones being 1) your performance will start to plateau or even worse, decline and 2) you’ll damage yourself! 

Do you see a lot of injuries caused by people not taking enough recovery? 

Yes!! The most common injuries I see are overuse – where people increase their volume too quickly and they haven’t been used to that amount of training, or they are just not resting enough/at all and letting their bodies recover. 

In simple terms fatigued muscles make you susceptible to injuries.

For example fatigued Triceps from loads of push ups can cause strain on the joint (the elbow) as that aims to help take the load from the muscles that are struggling to still perform the movement. But this can result in inflammation within the joint, potentially causing a pinched nerve so tingling down the arm or reduced range of motion in your elbow. This consequently has a knock on effect on your training. You see where I am going…

Also tightness from not stretching post workout or a build up of knots (build up of muscle tissue) can restrict blood flow and oxygen to your muscles- basically depriving muscles from working at their full potential. If niggles or tightness are ignored the little issues get worse causing more problems or referred pain, and potentially bigger injuries so you end up being out of training longer anyway.

Anything specific people can do on their grow days to aid their recovery? 

Making sure you keep up your water and protein intake.
– protein for grown and repair of your muscles
– water because it is a key nutrient in the makeup of the synovial fluid, which helps lubricate your joints and allows for ease of movement. Also it helps to reduce muscle cramping and can make you more alert and have more energy for workouts.

If you sit at a desk all day or even sit on the sofa a lot try to just get your body moving not vigorous exercise but more a gentle walk, utilising any free time to really stretch out your hips, shoulders and lower back especially. You’d be surprised how stiff these areas can get from sitting in the same position for approx. 8 hours a day. This will all help make the basic patterns easier anyway and you will soon notice the difference.

Thinking more in general – how often should someone stretch and can you stretch too much? 

Doing 5-10 mins every day is great for improving flexibility and can alleviate tight muscles, but being realistic it is unlikely people would stick to that. A couple of times a week would be beneficial and probably more likely to stick to. So maybe instead of sitting on the sofa all evening you could do a bit of stretching on the floor whilst watching your programme on tv? Or focusing on doing longer stretching sessions on your rest days, whatever works best for you.

Using an app such as GOWOD can be a great tool as it can be tailored to your weaknesses and give you great stretches if you don’t know what to do for all different areas of the body.

Whats your best piece of advice for all us regular people who are just working hard to become better? 

Enjoy the process, don’t push yourself so much you burn out physically and mentally you will soon see it isn’t sustainable powering through muscle pains and training exhausted!

Enjoy those days off training because you’ll appreciate how much harder you can hit your sessions after them and start seeing your performance in training improve and even hitting PBs which of course everyone gets excited about!

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