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.
Body Comp Stats Weight: 75.1kg (-1.0kg) Body Fat %: 28 (-0.3) Muscle %: 33.8 (+/- 0)
Mon: 12:30pm 6 Hour Hell Session
Kerry (my coach for you new readers) kindly agreed to do this once a month for me and this one came around real quick. I felt a bit like I had gone to war with CrossFit and I although I survived, I got my butt well and truly kicked in the process. Workout 1: 100 Jumps over the Jerk Blocks Every 10 reps = 10 Russian Twist (10kg plate) Every 20 reps = 20 Kettlebell Swing (16kg KB) Every 50 reps = 10 Sumo Deadlift (35kg)
Workout 2 / 3 / 4: Accumulate; 2 min Handstand Hold 10 min Wall Sit 6 min Hollow Hold at top of Dip Bar
Workout 5: 7k Run 5k Assault Bike 3k Ski Erg *all in weight vest
Workout 6: Memorial Workout ‘Gilbert Drake’ Accumulate 6 minutes hanging from the rig 1st drop from rig = 800m Run + 20 Burpee Box Jump Overs 2nd drop from rig = 600m Run + 20 Burpee Box Jump Overs 3rd drop from rig = 400m Run + 20 Burpee Box Jump Overs 4th and every subsequent drop = 200m Run + 20 Burpee Box Jump Overs *Should have only been Burpee Box Jumps but I misread the workout! This one hurt. For one of the first times ever I started to hate burpees. Luckily Toby was on hand to present me with a little written motivation…
Workout 7: The Finale 100 cal Assault Bike 100 cal Ski Erg 100 cal Row Every 2 minutes = 10 meter walking lunge w/ 12.5kg Dumbbell
All done and my lats, delts, glutes and hamstrings felt completely beaten up, exactly what I wanted so once again it was time to thank Kerry for an amazing job and head home to start the clean up process as I appeared to have been cleaning the floor of the gym with my legs….
Tues: Rest Day – funny that!
Wed: 6:45am Indoor Cycle Class + 2 mile Run
Coach cycle. Run with Gary. Standard Weds morning and I was surprised at how well my legs held up. I thought this would be the slowest run ever but I did ok. Again, the constant chat helped 🙂
Thu: 9:30am Indoor Cycle Class
Coached week 9 of my programme which is an homage to my favourite stage of The Tour last year. Stage 15, a mountain stage with awesome climbs and an uphill finish.
Thu: 6:30pm Coach By Colour Indoor Cycle Class
Second attempt at The Tour stage, I enjoyed it just as much the second time round and it may just be my favourite week of the programme this year. The plan was to hit another run after class with Gary but he forgot and I took the easy way out and went home, rather than run on my own.
Fri: 1pm CrossFit Class
Kerry asked me when I arrived how I was feeling and I answered honestly that I felt really good. Skill/Strength focus was all about the Overhead Squat but if I put anything more than a PVC pipe above my head I could really feel it in my lower back (yes, I am still struggling with it nearly 2 months on!) so it was Front Squats for me… 5 sets of 3, building up to a heavy 3 for the day. Given everything I did Monday I didn’t go near my usual heavy but what I did do felt heavy enough and as Kerry says “If it feels heavy, thats because it’s heavy!” The workout was a 10 minute AMRAP of 1 Front Squat, 1 Pull Up (jumping for me), adding another rep of each movement every round. Three rounds in and I realised how tired my lats, triceps and shoulders still were. When I told Kerry this she just laughed and said “I thought that would be the case!” Remember kids, just like your mum, your coach knows everything!
Sat: Planned Rest Day
Sun: Unplanned Rest Day
My alarm went off at 6:30am so I could get up and head to the pool, followed by the cycle studio but I rolled over, turned it off and snuggled back down in bed with my husband and our dog. I decided to give myself one lazy morning and have a day where I’m not getting up, rushing around and then catching up with my husband later in the day. Even on rest days I have to get up for work so we don’t get mornings like this anymore. Did I feel guilty? No Did I completely enjoy sitting in bed drinking tea, reading my book and even (horrific gasp!) eating a few biscuits? You fucking bet I did. So there will be an X over this mornings session. Big deal. It is just one session and as long as this doesn’t become the habit (which I already know won’t happen as a I am too focussed on my goal) there is no harm done. I know how much effort I put in this week and I made the instant decision to put just as much effort into some pure quality time with my family as that was where I have been slacking this week!