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  • Writer's pictureMaddy

***THE IMPORTANCE OF REST DAYS***

Updated: Mar 12, 2023

This is a question I either get asked a lot or not at all. Meaning, my clients either want to know the ins and outs of why they should have a rest (recovery) day and when or I have to insist on certain clients having rest days in order to allow their body to recover.


Why should we have recovery days?

Recovery days are important in allowing the body to repair and rebuild muscle tissue that has been broken down during exercise. This helps to reduce the risk of injury, improve muscle strength and endurance, and promote overall fitness. Recovery days can encompass low-impact activities such as stretching, yoga, or light cardio to promote blood flow and help the body recover.


The science behind recovery days

A study published in the Journal of Applied Physiology found that taking a day of rest between weightlifting sessions helped to improve muscle strength and endurance. The study showed that muscle fibers were better able to repair and rebuild themselves when given a day of rest between

weightlifting sessions, leading to improved muscle function and performance.


Additionally, taking rest days can also help to prevent overtraining and burnout. Overtraining can occur when the body is not given enough time to recover, leading to fatigue, decreased performance, and an increased risk of injury. A study published in the Journal of Athletic Training found that taking a day of rest between training sessions helped to prevent overtraining in collegiate athletes.


These are just a few examples.


What should I eat and drink on recovery days?


Protein: Foods high in protein, such as lean meats, fish, eggs, and dairy products, (beans/pulses, tofu, oats for veggies) will help to repair and rebuild muscle tissue.


Complex carbohydrates: Whole grains, fruits, and vegetables will provide the body with energy and help to replenish glycogen stores that are depleted during exercise.


Healthy fats: Foods high in healthy fats, such as nuts, seeds, avocado, and olive oil, will help to reduce inflammation and support overall health.


Antioxidants: Fruits and vegetables, especially those that are brightly coloured, are high in antioxidants and can help to reduce inflammation and support the body's natural healing process.


Hydration: Staying hydrated is important for recovery as it helps in removing toxins, aids in digestion and nutrient delivery, and also helps in maintaining fluid balance.


Fibre: Eating foods high in fibre, like fruits, vegetables, whole grains and legumes, can help keep digestion regular and promote healthy gut bacteria.


Vitamin C:

For collagen production and helps in repairing tissues. Foods high in vitamin C include oranges, strawberries, kiwi, bell peppers, spinach, and kale.


Vitamin D:

Vitamin D is important for bone health, muscle function and immune system. Foods high in Vitamin D include fatty fish, egg yolks, mushrooms, fortified milk and cereal. It can also help with low mood.


How can I speed up the recovery process?


Adequate rest and sleep: Getting enough rest and sleep is crucial for allowing the body to repair and rebuild muscle tissue. Aim for at least 7-9 hours of sleep per night.


Hydration: Staying hydrated is important for recovery as it helps in removing toxins, aids in digestion and nutrient delivery, and also helps in maintaining fluid balance.


Nutrition: Consuming nutrient-dense foods that support muscle

repair and rebuilding, such as lean protein, complex carbohydrates, healthy fats, and antioxidants, can help speed up the recovery process.


Stretching and foam rolling: Stretching and using a foam roller can help to release tension in muscles and promote blood flow, which can help to reduce muscle soreness and improve recovery.


Massage: A sports massage can help to release muscle tension, promote blood flow and improve muscle recovery.


Hot and Cold therapy: Also known as thermotherapy and cryotherapy, are two types of therapy that are used to help reduce pain and inflammation, and promote healing in muscles, joints, and other soft tissues.


Hot therapy is the application of heat to an area of the body. It can be applied using a heating pad, hot water bottle, or a warm shower. The heat increases blood flow to the area, which can help to reduce pain and stiffness, and promote healing. Hot therapy is particularly useful for treating chronic conditions such as arthritis, and also for soothing sore muscles after exercise.


Cold therapy, on the other hand, is the application of cold to an area of the body. It can be applied using an ice pack, a bag of frozen peas, or a cold shower. Cold therapy helps to reduce inflammation and numb the area, which can help to reduce pain and swelling. Cold therapy is particularly useful for treating acute injuries such as sprains, strains, and bruises.


Both hot and cold therapy can be used together for optimal results. For example, applying heat before exercise can help to warm up the muscles and prepare them for activity, while applying cold after exercise can help to reduce inflammation and soreness.


It's important to note that heat therapy should not be applied to an area that is already swollen or red, and cold therapy should not be applied for more than 20 minutes at a time, to prevent frostbite.


Active recovery: Engaging in low-impact activities, such as walking, yoga, or swimming, can help to increase blood flow and promote recovery without putting too much stress on the body.


Compression garments: Wearing compression garments such as compression socks, tights, and sleeves can help to improve blood flow and reduce muscle soreness.


Meditation:

Reducing stress and anxiety: Meditation can help to reduce stress and anxiety by calming the mind and promoting a sense of relaxation. This can help to improve overall well-being and promote faster recovery from injury or illness.


Improving sleep: Meditation can help to improve the quality of sleep by reducing stress and anxiety, which can help to improve overall recovery.


Reducing pain: Meditation has been shown to reduce pain perception by activating the body's natural pain-relieving mechanisms. This can help to reduce pain and improve recovery from injuries and illnesses.


Improving mental focus: Meditation can help to improve focus and concentration by training the mind to stay focused on a particular object or activity. This can help to improve overall performance and recovery.


Improving cardiovascular health: Meditation has been found to help lower blood pressure and improve heart rate variability, which can help to improve cardiovascular health and reduce the risk of heart disease.


It's important to note that recovery time can vary depending on the individual and the type and intensity of exercise performed. It's always good to listen to your body and rest when you feel you need to and then you can always reduce the number of rest days.


However, it's still important to monitor your body's response and adjust the number of rest days as needed.

It's also important to listen to your body, if you feel fatigued, sore or injured, it's better to take an extra rest day or two.


In summary, rest days are essential for muscle recovery and injury prevention, as well as preventing burnout, and they help to improve muscle strength and endurance. This is why it's important to have a balanced exercise routine that includes both exercise days and recovery days.


I hope you find this informative and don't feel overwhelmed that you have to do all the "things". Just implementing some "time out" away from your daily training and maybe doing one or two of the above suggestions can make all the difference.


Here's to a more well rounded approach to your training.


Maddy x



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