The Health Benefits of Rest and Recovery

Written by: Christin Ruud, Personal Trainer @ O2 Fuquay-Varina

When people start exercising they often focus on how many days per week they do strength training or cardiovascular exercise.  They use this as a measure of their own self-discipline to their workouts.  I am guilty of this tactic, as well.  I even keep a record of my workouts in my personal planner.  This helps me to stay accountable to myself and make sure that I work each part of my body equally while strength training and also getting in adequate cardiovascular exercise to keep my heart strong.

Sometimes I notice that I have not taken a day off during the week from my workouts.  This can lead me to become physically exhausted or simply dread working out.  Also, I notice that I am stiff from not stretching enough or feel an injury creeping it’s way to my body.  This injury phase would simply be from overuse.

I titled this blog Rest and Recovery, because as much as we focus on exercise and nutrition, we have to realize the importance of rest.  Rest allows our bodies to repair muscle and refuel our energy storage systems (Anabolism) to get us through our weekly workouts.  Most researchers recommend 1-2 rest days per week.  For me, I notice that if I take 1 day off during the week, I usually am re-energized and do not regress in my training.  Every time I try the 2 consecutive rest days, I end up feeling more sluggish heading into my workouts.  This sluggishness takes a few days to overcome.  I have gradually figured this strategy for my body through years of exercising.

My advice is to try both at some point in your workouts.  You may even want to split your rest days up during the week.  For example: workout 3 days, rest 1 day, workout 2 days and complete a final rest day.  Just make sure that you are not creating more rest days and less workout days.  That’s when things head south.  I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again,  “We were made to move, not be sedentary!”

Speaking about rest and recovery, I would be negligent if I did not discuss the importance of adequate sleep.  Not only does sleep help us to feel physically well, but it also does wonder’s for our mental outlook.  When was the last time you only had 3 hours of sleep and felt like a million bucks all day after?  Probably not often.  Now I know the next statement will be, “I simply don’t have time to get adequate rest every night!”  My response will always be, you don’t have time not to get 8-9 hours of sleep every night.  This is because consecutive nights of sleep deprivation has been shown to weaken the immune system, decrease insulin’s ability to utilize glucose in your blood stream (a symptom of type 2 diabetes), increase the amount of cortisol hormone secreted in your body and even set’s you up for depression.  The list of effects of sleep deprivation goes on forever and none of them are good.

That being said, you may want to make a list of things that are preventing you from going to bed at a decent hour every night.  Then brain storm ideas on how thing’s can be changed in your life to ensure that your sleep quota is being met.  For example, you could try turning off the TV or internet distractions about an hour before you plan to go to bed, limit caffeine intake in the afternoons, prepare dinners in advance for the week so you are not up extra late cooking and cleaning, or even pack your lunch in the evening so you can sleep an extra bit later in the mornings.

I challenge everyone to track your sleep hours this week and see if you are making the cut!

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