8 Signs You Need a Rest Day

Exercise seems to be all or nothing. People either hardly exercise at all or are diehards who exercise day in and day out. I am a proponent of regular exercise and urge clients to exercise daily. But there are times when you may need a rest day.

Recovery days should be incorporated into all workout routines (even the most elite athletes take active recovery days) to reduce the risk of injury, keep motivation, and avoid overtraining. Here are eight signs that you may need a recovery day.

  1. You’re always sore—It is normal to have muscle soreness after a strenuous workout, or if you started a new workout routine. If you have been doing the same routine and are still always sore, it may be a sign you are overtraining. Overtraining is the state where the individual “has been repeatedly stressed by training to the point where rest is no longer adequate to allow for recovery” (source). Symptoms of overtraining include constant muscle soreness, injuries, and frequent sicknesses.
  2. Elevated resting heart rate—With the craze of trackable devices, people can track their heart rate trends. If your resting heart rate (the number of heart beats per minute while you’re at rest) is higher than usual, it may be a sign your body is stressed out. The hormones released when your body is stressed speed up your heart to pump more oxygen to your muscles and brain, preparing you to fight or flight. Our body doesn’t differential the difference between physiological or psychological stress. So a hard work out or a hard day at work requires some downtime.
  3. You’re always tired—Though regular exercise has been proven to boost energy levels, it is essential to have a rest day to allow your body to recuperate. When working out, we place more stress on our muscles, tendons, ligaments, bones, and joints. Without a scheduled rest day, our body is never able to catch up and repair the damaged muscle and tissues.
  4. Dehydration—If you take a drink of water and find yourself downing the whole glass all at once, you’re probably dehydrated. Another sign of dehydration is if you lose two or more pounds during a workout. It is important to hydrate yourself before, during, and after your workouts. Dehydration causes fatigue and a decrease in performance. To ensure you are getting the most out of your workouts, try and drink two cups of water or watered down sports drink two hours before your workout. Be sure to rehydrate after your workouts, ensuring you are hydrated for your next workout.
  5. Bad attitude toward working out—If the thought of working out makes you angry even though you are an avid exerciser, you might be mentally burned out. Take a day off from your regular exercise routine. If a day off does not seem to help try switching up your daily workouts, try a new class, or find a new workout partner. Lastly, make sure whatever workout routine you are doing is sustainable and incorporates regular active recovery days.
  6. Lousy workout—Just because you have one bad workout doesn’t mean you need to throw in the towel. But if you do an exercise and it feels great, it was a good workout. If you do a similar workout and it felt terrible, it would be a bad workout. If you have multiple bad workouts in a row, it might be time to take a day and recuperate.
  7. You don’t take active recoveries—A recovery day doesn’t mean you lay in bed all day. It is crucial for your scheduled rest days to take the time to help your body recover. Foam rolling, stretching, and icing is all excellent ways to assist with recovery. Self-myofascial release or self-massage is a great way to release muscle tightness. You can roll out your muscles with a foam roller, lacrosse ball, or even your own hands. Massages assist with relaxing muscles and increase blood flow to provide the nutrients and oxygen needed for muscle recovery.
  8. If you are sick—If your symptoms occur around your neck and above, it is okay to do a light workout. If you’re sick below the neck, stay home. If you have a stuffy nose, you are probably okay to do a light exercise. If you have a fever, body aches, abdominal pain, or chest congestions – stay home. A fever raises your body’s core temperature and can cause dehydration. Exercise also can elevate your temperature and causes you to sweat. Exercising while you have a fever can raise your temperature more and also may lead to dehydration. It is vital to wait 24-48 hours after your fever has broken to start exercise. A good rule of thumb is: for each day you were sick, easy into working out for the same duration. So if I were sick for three days, take three days to ease back into your workouts.

Jenkins, M., MD. (1998). Overtraining Syndrome. Retrieved August 02, 2016, from http://www.rice.edu/~jenky/sports/overtraining.html

Loy, B. D., O’connor, P. J., & Dishman, R. K. (2013). The effect of a single bout of exercise on energy and fatigue states: A systematic review and meta-analysis. Fatigue: Biomedicine, Health & Behavior, 1(4), 223-242. doi:10.1080/21641846.2013.843266

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