Grow Days… the new Rest Day?

Rest Days. For anyone that really cares about their performance they are as important as Training Days… so why do so many people struggle with them? 

I’m one of the lucky ones as I have never really struggled with taking my rest days. 

Maybe it’s because I’ve been involved in various sports from a young age, maybe it’s because I work within the fitness industry and all my training has taught me well, or maybe I’m just a little bit lazy and just like the idea of taking a day off (this last one is only true once about every 4 months just FYI!) 

As I say, I’m one of the lucky ones as I know that many of my clients, class members and training friends at CrossFit Iron Duke struggle with whole concept of taking a day off from training.

I’ve asked a few of them what the issue is and the things I get told range from “I can’t face taking a day off and hampering my progress” to “I need to exercise every day” 

These are not good reasons not to take your rest days and actually there is no good reason not to take your rest days. It has been proven over and over again that rest days are as essential to your progress as the training you do. 

My friend and fellow CrossFitter, Demi Stephens (also a qualified Nutrition Coach) recently wrote a post on Instagram about her ‘Grow Day’ and I instantly loved the concept. I could see that this different way of thinking might help other people so I decided to ask her a little more about it. 

Here’s what she had to say…

How long did you struggle with the concept of the Rest Day?

Probably ever since I first really got into the gym and training… so it was probably about 10 years!

I am definitely someone that has over-trained in the past. 

Why was that? 

I used to think that I was ‘missing out’ on a workout, or that I needed to train every day to get fitter and stronger. 

If my muscles weren’t hurting then what was I resting for? I didn’t realise that my overtraining was working against me and I just wasn’t given my body a chance to catch up with itself.

Even though I was pretty much injured all the time, I still trained. I couldn’t see that my lack of recovery was probably responsible. 

You now call them ‘Grow Days’… how did this come about? 

This actually evolved from a conversation with my Coach at CrossFit Iron Duke – Toby Cooley – a couple of years ago. He would programme me specific ‘rest days’ and more often than not (if I actually had one) the rest day would end up being a mentally low day too. 

So back in March 2019 the idea of referring to them as a “Grow Day” was born … and the idea that when I am “growing” the magic is happening!

How does this change of name help you? 

It took a bit of time but it shifted how I viewed the day, I wasn’t missing out. instead I was literally ‘growing my muscles’. So it began to feel like I was accomplishing something and working towards my goals.

Grow days then became a thing… If I had a day away from the gym due to work or to study, it was still ‘a grow day’.

If I couldn’t make it to the gym due to a niggle or an injury, it was just another grow day.

With your Nutrition Coach hat on, is there anything else you think is important to understand?

I honestly didn’t realise just how much recovery was part of the process.

If I could go back in time and have a word with my 30-something self I would! 

Recovery is SO important. 

Simply put, exercise = a stressor. 

So even though we often use exercise to relieve our stresses, it also puts our body under physical stress. 

All those body systems that we simply don’t see and take for granted have to work a little bit harder to restore a happy balance. 

If you think of yourself as your mobile phone, once that battery starts getting nearer 0% and that red line appears you know you’re going to need to give it a full charge to get it working again.

Well that IS your body. 

You know that feeling when you can’t perform the way you are used to, weights feel heavy, you feel achy, tired, moody and generally ‘meh’… this is your internal systems trying to get your attention as they are starting to struggle. 

If you don’t give yourself a chance to recharge that battery (recover) then your body will end up deciding for you and force you to stop – usually with an illness or an injury. 

Can you use your nutrition to enhance the effectiveness of your “Grow Day’? 

There is that saying “muscles are torn in the gym and fed in the kitchen”. Well this is just as important on a ‘grow day’.

I make sure I hit my protein targets – so that my muscles can repair themselves.

I keep my water intake up – so that I remain hydrated.

I make sure I eat my carbs – so my glycogen levels are restored.

My body needs “feeding”  so it can recover, repair and refuel itself so I can smash my next workout! 

Do you ever still struggle to take the day off?

I actually now look forward to a ‘grow day’ and I treat myself to 2 a week!

I am still active on these days and will usually go for a nice walk to keep my body moving, but I see it as a day to give my muscles some TLC so that I am ready for the next day.

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