Rest is just as important to creating overall wellness for your body as any of the other ingredients for health. Yet, we don’t hear much about it.
We hear about how cardiovascular exercise is good for your heart, lungs and waistline. We hear about how resistance training is excellent for building muscles and your metabolism. We hear how stretching is important for preventing injuries and maintaining your body’s range of motion.
But what do we know about resting?
“Exercise and rest require a delicate balance, with the goal of advancing fitness levels while also accounting for beneficial muscle recovery,” according to the Sanford Clinic of Orthopedics & Sports Medicine in Fargo, N.D. A recovery period between workouts ensures the body will be primed for achieving fitness milestones,” writes Monica Stevens for Fitness.com.
Rest is important because the body needs to replace what it has depleted during workouts, otherwise the body gets worn down and never gets the chance to rebuild.
For example, writes Chris Sherwood for Livestrong.com, when the muscles get taxed during a hard cardio and/or strength-training workout “the tears in the muscle tissue from exercise disrupt the muscle cell organelles. This disruption activates satellite cells from outside the muscle fibers, which rush to the area of damage.
“These cells replicate, mature into grown cells and fuse to your muscle fibers,” Sherwood continues. “This process forms new muscle protein strands, which increases the strength and visible size of the muscle to better cope with similar physical activity in the future. Other satellite cells are used to heal the already damaged tissue. The healing of the muscle tissue also helps relieve any soreness from the exercise.”
So, what’s the bottom line on how to fit rest into your workout regime?
There needs to be a recovery period for any muscles that have been worked to the point of fatigue and soreness in order for them to recover. This means if you take a punishing indoor cycling class one day, the next day rest your legs and go into the weight room and workout your upper body.
If you do an all-over resistance training class like TRX or lift weights in the gym, choose a more gentle cardio option the next day like swimming, walking, or running at a moderate pace.
If you perform hard during an interval workout, choose a yoga class for the next day. Try to put a sense of balance back into your fitness routine. Don’t exhaust yourself.
For some, there is a compulsion to “kill it” every time you hit the gym. However, if this is your system your muscles will deteriorate rather than become stronger or leaner.
Think of it like watering a plant. If you overwater it, it will wither and die. The same thing will happen if you overwork your body.
Adding rest to your fitness program is not a permission slip to sit on the couch and do nothing. It is an invitation to find that happy medium between overwork and being a couch potato. Sure, take a couple days off from the gym a week, but feel free to go for a nice walk or do some yard work on your off days.
Find out how adding rest into your overall wellness routine works best for you and your body. You will go longer and be stronger.
Rebecca Thorpe is aquatics director at the Walla Walla YMCA.