Feelings of depression, fatigue, sluggishness, irritability, and not wanting to start the day’s workout are all symptoms of overtraining. You need to be honest with yourself if you are just tired, say, from not sleeping well last night, or if the tired feeling seems to be coming out of thin air. The cumulative fatiguing effect of strength and conditioning workouts can surprise even the most dedicated athlete. If you haven’t had a rest day in awhile, ask yourself whether you’re experiencing one or more of the above symptoms. There is no hard and fast science about how many days per exercise cycle an athlete needs to rest. Furthermore, the frequency of your rest days may differ by month or with other circumstances in your life. Last month maybe you felt great and only took one or two rest days, despite many heavy workouts. This month could be a totally different story, maybe you’re feeling like you need to take two rest days a week, regardless of your activity level.
Taking steps to avoid overtraining is important for everyone, and it’s easy to try to compare your situation to your workout buddy’s. Honor how you are feeling, and don’t just rest because your workout program says so. Likewise, don’t push through a workout that’s on your “schedule” if you are feeling extremely overtired or irritable.
It’s important to note that taking a rest day doesn’t mean that you have to sit on the couch and not move at all. Sure, an hour or two of just relaxing can be nice, but many athletes feel restless on days when they don’t get to partake in any exercise. A short walk, easy hike or bike ride, gentle yoga class, or friendly tennis game (only if you aren’t the competitive type!) can still allow you to engage your mind and body, while allowing your muscles a chance to recover.
When will you take YOUR next rest day?
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Dog on couch: Flikr creative commons