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!
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.