It happens to the best of us. You’re going along fine, making it to your regular workout, eating pretty well and sleeping. Then suddenly you have an off day. Maybe you don’t drink or eat enough or something keeps you up all night. You might wonder if it’s worth trying to work out when you know you’re not 100%. Below are 5 ways to know you need a rest day.
You slept very little last night. Sleep is super important, especially if you are lifting heavy, going hard at the gym. Your muscles need time to recuperate and your body needs the rest to repair itself and grow stronger. If I sleep five hours or less, I don’t even try to work out. My body won’t have the energy it needs and I’m only going to stress it more by piling on new work that you will need to recover from. Sleep in and maybe try to go later in the day. If you can’t sleep in, just rest and get back on it the next day, making sure you get the sleep you need!
You haven’t been eating or drinking enough. Our bodies need fuel not only for daily function but especially for workouts. If you find that you are not eating enough calories or hydrating appropriately for a few days, it’s best to reset, rest and get back on your nutrition game. In the worst case scenario, you could faint while working out! But, at best you will have a meh workout without the proper energy needed for your body to push itself enough to grow. Men need at least 3 liters of water a day while women need 2. As for calories, make sure you are eating at maintenance and if you’re a heavy lifter or going harder than most at the gym, eat 300 to 500 calories above maintenance to fuel that activity and keep your energy going. Your body needs the nutrients!
You’re stressed to the max. Sometimes you’re so stressed that going to the gym might put you over the edge. If you have that much to do, sometimes it’s best to take a day to catch up, reset and ground yourself. I wouldn’t do this too often because it’s easy to fall out of the gym habit when you’re busy, especially during the holidays or other stressful times of the year, such as college finals for students. Maybe you just do a little light cardio or take a walk instead of going all in for your normal lift.
You’re just not feeling it. Sometimes we just don’t have the energy to get ourselves there and if that’s happening to you, it’s OK to take a break. Pause and think about the reasons why you aren’t feeling it. Do you need a new routine? Do you need to try going at a different time? Are you feeling too much pain? Are you just too tired? Depending on your answers to these questions, you might just need a change in direction or strategy to get back into your regular routine. It’s best to stick with a routine or program for at least 8 and as many as 12 weeks before moving to something different. It takes about that long to see results. But, if you’re doing something that’s just not a good fit for you, make the change earlier and get into a routine that makes sense that you love to do. You’ll feel better and have more success, too.
You drank too much last night. It happens. You go to a party and drink more than you planned and next thing you know, you’re up all night and/or waking up hungover. It’s best not to try to exercise in that state! Hydrate, eat as well as you can and rest until you completely recover. Of course, alcohol isn’t the greatest for our bodies anyway, but at times it’s OK to indulge. Just don’t overdo it by trying to workout the next day!
What qualifies as a rest day?
Rest days are days that you take a break from your normal gym routine. That break might be complete and total rest from any activity or you might do light activity. For example, if you normally are a power lifter, your rest day might include yoga for recovery and increased flexibility. If you normally do CrossFit, you might do an outside hike. Anything that is lighter than your normal routine, allowing your body to rest from its usual stressors is a rest day.
While rest days are super important in any program, sometimes you need an extra one. If you find yourself needing them more often than normal, you might need to reevaluate what’s going on. You might need a longer break or maybe just a reset. The new year and a new decade is coming. It’s a perfect time to think about what you need next to optimize your workouts and your health!