Why rest is an important part of your exercise regime

with advice from Mark Salandra, CSCS

We’ve all seen professional athletes push through pain, playing with sore muscles, injured joints and even broken bones. No pain, no gain, right? Wrong. More healthcare providers and professional trainers are acknowledging that rest is a key component of any exercise regimen.

Working out is a traumatic experience for your body. It puts your muscles, joints and connective tissue are under stress, and temporarily weakens the immune system. This is why Mark Salandra, the founder of StrengthCondition.com (one of Physiquality’s partner programs) says that the more rested you are, the better you’ll perform. “It is only after your workout, when you are resting and replenishing your body with protein and other nutrients, when the body heals and gets stronger. This is why I live by the motto, ‘Train hard, but rest harder,'” says Mark, a certified strength and conditioning specialist.

So how much rest is enough? It depends on your level of fitness, as well as your age. Those new to exercise should rest more and train less frequently than those who are more fit. Beginning exercisers should rest 24 hours for a one-hour workout; those that are more advanced should take at least 8-12 hours rest.

Group of runners in a race

Mark notes that the more advanced your workout, the longer the period of rest should be; for example, after running a race like a marathon, you should give your body at least 48 hours to recuperate before working out again. Mark encourages rest before strenuous activity as well, stating that he’ll take up to 48 hours off before weightlifting competitions in order to make sure his body is fully rested and prepared for such activity. He explains that resting also helps to prevent sports injuries. “Athletes who do not have enough rest get injured more, because they never recover from workouts and continually push their bodies, which sooner or later break down,” he says.

Some experts even point to how much sleep one gets as a factor in how intense an athlete should train. Sage Rountree, an endurance coach, notes that a lack of sleep can affect your balance and awareness when working out. While one of her athletes won’t train unless he gets at least six hours of sleep a night, she cautions that most people should just be aware of whether a sleep deficit will affect their exercise.

Woman in pain, holding her neck

Body awareness is key to realizing when you need to back off from working out. An injury is a major sign that your body needs a break, but sometimes the clues are more subtle. Here are some classic signs of overtraining:

  • Achy joints and muscles that don’t improve with rest
  • Sluggishness even after adequate sleep
  • A lack of progress in your workout over a period of several days

Another sign of overtraining can be your health. If you find yourself getting colds more often than usual, you may be exercising too much and overworking your immune system. With any of those symptoms, especially the last, it’s probably time to see a healthcare provider and take some time away from the gym.

Thank you to our contributors:

Mark Salandra, CSCS, is the founder of StrengthCondition.com, one of Physiquality’s partner programs. Salandra educates and trains athletes young and old in strength and conditioning, with the goals of better fitness and lower rates of injury.

Stein, Jeannine. Training hard is part of cycling, but so is taking a day off. Los Angeles Times, July 17, 2011.

Deardorff, Julie. Rest and recovery: Why athletes need it. Chicago Tribune, April 27, 2011.

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