Importance of Rest

23 Aug 2019

Rest is probably one of the most important factors in your ability to improve and grow as an athlete. So why don't we do it more??

The other day I was talking to one of my coaches after training and he asked me if I was going to be training tomorrow. I said no because I had trained the last four days in a row and felt like I needed to rest. My coach said that was fair, I said goodbye and left. While I was driving home I thought about it and realised that I had trained 4 days that week, but I had actually trained 7 days in a row without rest! I decided my rest day tomorrow was definitely needed, maybe even two should be taken.

If like me (and many other fitness enthusiasts out there), you train almost every day with more than one session per day most of the time. You will notice that your performance slips day by day without rest. Our bodies do not respond well to constant intense physical strain with no recovery time. However, it is so common to see in the fitness world people training day in day out without any meaninful rest and recovery. Not only is this damaging physically and adding extra strain to your joints and connective tissues, it is negatively impacting on performance ability and increases the risk of injury.

"...there seems to be a constant conflation of the amount of time you spend training and your progress..."

There is an interesting mentality that I have noticed in the fitness community at large, there seems to be a constant conflation of the amount of time you spend training and your progress. If we take two ideal athletes with perfect diets and sleep patterns, its intuative to assume that the one who trains more will out perform the one who trains less. However, I am not speaking about theortical ideal athletes or even elite real world athletes. I am talking about the average fitness enthuisast who is supposidly training for health and maybe the odd compeditive event.

I am definitely guilty of this slightly skewed mental model of running myself into the ground with training because that is how I will make progress. There are a lot of interesting sides as to why people do this. There are some people who absolutely love their training and they are happiest when they are training. There are also people who use their training to validate themself. This type of thinking can be both good and bad, taking pride in what you have done, pushing yourself and feeling good is healthy. Validating yourself as being a worth while being for the same reasons is not.

"Diet is the foundation of physical fitness and you can't out train a bad diet."

Another interesting group are those who train to eat. Diet is the foundation of physical fitness and you can't out train a bad diet. That said, if you train twice a day everyday, you can probably get away with eating badly and not gainning weight. Training hard all week might also give people enough justification for weekend bindges etc. This again might work, but it's not a healthy balanced lifestyle. On this topic, it is also fair to note that no one ever died from a slice of pizza and some ice cream, if you do work hard, you also have to live a little.

With these above topics in mind, if you do train to a high level or highly regularly, it's worth reflecting on why you train. Sometimes this can be a strange question to ask ourselves, the answers seem obvious and genrally healthy; 'I want to be fitter', 'I want to lose weight', 'I want to get better at x', 'I want to compete in competition', 'I want to be the best in the world', 'I love my training', 'I love spending time with the people I train with'. These are all valid answers, but ultimately, unless you are a high level athlete, your life probably isn't 100% focused on your training. You probably have a job and a family also. So if you are killing yourself training every day, are you giving your friends, family and career the best you can give them? If the answer to this is yes, then I commend you. This is not an easy thing to do. I am also not juding the people (like me) who might be accused of training to much. However, I think it is a valid mental exercise to ask yourself every so often, why am I doing this? Is this the best thing for me and my life?

I can say from my own experience that I have been guilty of ignoring friends from outside the gym and not spending enough time with family and loved ones because I have been so wrapped up in my training. I can also say that I have been quilty of being tired and unfocused in work because I spent 7 days training without rest and have exhausted myself. Combatting this has required me to look at a lot of things and re-evaulate what I find most valuable. I train mostly for health and the odd competition. I am never going to be a top level athlete. I want to stay healthy for the rest of my life and be physically fit enought to keep moving for as long as I can, spend time with my loved ones, go for hikes in the mountains and enjoy my life. I want to be able to bend down and pick up my grandchildren one day and not hurt my back playing with them in the garden. The risk of losing that is not worth the possible gains that a non-stop training routine might offer.

"...ask yourself why you train and what you want out of your life now and for the future..."

In an article orignally published by Greg Glassman in 2003 and still presented in the CrossFit Level 1 training guide, Glassman outlines a template for strucutring training and rest. The pattern suggested is simple, 3 days on, 1 day off; or 5 days on and 2 days off. I am not going to say that this can be used to reach the highest heights of physical excellence or that doing this will even make you reach your own goals. However, the necessity of rest is fundamental to becoming fitter, stronger and healthier. If you take anything away from this, I hope that you ask yourself why you train and what you want out of your life now and for the future.

But seriously, don't train for 7 days in a row, take some rest days.

At Wodly we are serious about setting an example for the health and fitness community. While we do not assume that our followers do every single workout every single day; the fact is that we still programm something every day. As a responsible member of this community, we have decidede to program rest days into our weekly schedule. These days will move around at random intervals so, keep an eye out for our next programmed rest day!!

Happy Resting.

Ian Carey
Better. Every. Day.