Most athletes know that getting enough rest after exercise is vital to high-level performance, but many still over train and feel guilty when they take a day off. The body repairs and strengthens itself in the time between workouts, and continuous training can actually weaken the strongest of athletes. Rest is physically necessary so that the muscles can repair, rebuild and strengthen. For most gym goers, building in rest days can also help maintain a good balance between home, work and fitness goals.
There are two categories of recovery. There is short-term recovery from an intense training session or event, and there is the long-term recovery that needs to be built into a year-round training schedule. Short term recovery or active recovery occurs in the hours immediately after intense exercise. Active recovery refers to doing some low-intensity exercise after workouts during both the cool-down phase immediately after a hard workout as well as during the days following.
Long-term recovery is built in to a seasonal training programme, for example a client has a year’s goal to run a marathon, I will always advise them every 2-3 months to have a week’s rest from training. Most well-designed training schedules will include recovery days and/or weeks that are built into an annual training schedule.
A balanced combination of rest and recovery, along with proper diet and exercise should be a part of any fitness regime, so don’t feel guilty for having that day off from training, it’s actually doing you some good.