So, you want to get healthier, right? Perhaps you enjoy running or cycling, or even lifting or skiing, possibly even all of the above. You stay active, but you want to be able to maximize your workouts.

The question to ask is:

Are you adequately resting?
The rest days of any workout sequence are the days you build back. You get stronger on those days (well, assuming you have been working hard on the other days). The science behind it all: as you work your muscles through any activity of your choice, you are breaking them down very slowly. As you run farther, or faster, or just harder than you have in the past, your muscles are not accustomed to this type of stress and so you cause micro-tears to appear in the muscle. This is not anything you will notice, but what you will notice is the aftermath of these tears called DOMS (Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness). When you feel sore 1-3 days after a hard workout that is your body telling you it is healing itself from these micro-tears you caused. As the muscle heals itself from these tears, that is when your body gets stronger. You have to break down in order to build up. What this means is that you need to give your body rest. If you are constantly tearing your body down, and not giving it a chance to heal itself then you won’t be able to see the gains in strength, and you will not progress.

What qualifies as rest?
Rest days are often thought of as days where you do no physical exercise. These are the days you can justify a lazy day, but that might not be the best option. Studies show that active recovery helps speed up the process of recovery, allowing you to have another hard workout sooner, without overly injuring yourself.

Where is the balance?
Your rest days should be an easy day for you, where you can still get out and burn a few calories but not overdo it. Cut your average miles per day in half, or just take down the speed a notch or too. Personally 2-3 miles at an easy pace is my favorite recovery run, but don’t be afraid to have a true rest day at least once a week. Sometimes your body just needs it. When it all comes down to it, listen to your body. If you need it take it get right back into the game as quickly as you can.

Becca Capell
iFit Head Trainer