How many rest days do I need to take?
We focus on training & fitness alot but how often do we stop & consider our rest?
Rest & recovery is essential in order for our bodies to be pushed & trained to the max, whilst avoiding excessive fatigue & staying injury-free. When we train we are actually causing damage to our muscles; causing tiny microscopic tears in the muscle tissue. Our muscles repair & therefore get stronger during our rest & recovery and that is why sleep & recovery is so important to your fitness & strength training & getting those gains.
So how many rest days should you be taking?
Well, the answer is….that depends! It depends on your goals, how many days a week you are training, what you want to achieve, what your sessions involve what you can fit in. It is really down to each particular individual & their routine; there is no one size fits all approach & it is vital you remember that..
One full rest day every week should be a non-negotiable. As we mentioned when you train you are causing physiological damage to the muscle but you are also stressing your central nervous system. These tears are a good thing as that is what we want to happen when we train however if you don’t give your body time for these to repair this is when you can find yourself suffering with an injury.
Remember muscle repairs during rest.
As riders we live very busy lifestyles so our “rest day” would be far more active than your usual gym-goer, most of us would still easily hit our 10,000 daily steps & be riding or walking the dogs or doing the yard so you will still be doing a lot of activity. This needs to be considered when looking at your week overall & your training schedule around your riding commitments both in the saddle & on the yard. Remember riding & yard work is extremely physical and although it may not feel like it you are still putting stress on the body so you must give yourself time to recover & plan your training sessions around this.
Often when people get to the point of “having enough” of a fitness routine or “get bored” or “give up” it is down to overtraining. You have good intentions at the start of your journey and you go hell for leather, hit the gym 6 days a week and “beast” yourself. Sure enough a few weeks down the line you’re knackered, fed up of your routine & want to give up.
Starting training 2-3 days a week would be a sensible place to start & then slowly and progressively build the frequency & intensity of your sessions up overtime. You can always build up to 4 days a week but going too hard too soon will not be sustainable & you are risking yourself an injury as well as overworking your mental & physical capacity.
Focus on how you feel in terms of determining how much rest & recovery you should be taking. First of all, sleep is extremely important, you want to be sleeping for 7-9 hours every night to give your body the best chance to recover optimally. If your sleep is of poor quality then this will hugely impact your training & your sleep should be a priority when considering your fitness & training regime.
Good advice when it comes to strength training is to allow 48 hours between training the same muscle group, this is why body splits such as upper & lower days are commonly used or if you are training full body sessions alternating between 3-4 sessions per week to allow for recovery between sessions. Overtraining your muscle groups will lead to poor performance & potentially an injury. When we refer to strength training we are talking about the external load we place on our body, so if you are mainly training with bands or bodyweight then you may be able to train more often compared to lifting your 1 rep max. But you should still be aware of the basic training principle of not overtraining a muscle group.
If you find that your strength or performance suddenly hits a plateau then this can often be a sign that a break is needed! Give your body a deload week, where you knock back the volume & intensity of your sessions and allow yourself time to recover. It can be frustrating but you cannot go hard all the time & if your train regularly deloads will help to improve your performance. Often after a deload week you will find that you get your best performance & can hit PR’s in your lifts & training. Recovery is an essential part of your training & if you neglect it you will most probably find yourself suffering with an injury, soreness or poor performance further down the line.
A good rule to go by is if you have had a very intense session then to take a rest day the following day, this will give your body the time it needs to recover & be ready to go again. You can include active recovery in these rest days such as yoga, a mobility session, walking, a light cycle or run but nothing intense. In order for your body to adapt to the stress & demands you place on it during your training you must allow your body time to adapt & respond to those demands, this is when you will get progress & improvements but you must be patient. Dr sleep & time as Lucinda Green would say!
Remember that progression comes from small changes overtime, focusing on doing a little more every session each day is the way to go rather than attempting to smash it all out in one day & improve overnight. Consistency with both your training & your recovery is essential and both need to be taken as seriously as the other.
As riders & living a busy Equestrian lifestyle physically & mentally you need to allow yourself recovery periods & days. As I mentioned earlier compared to the average gym goer an equestrian has a far more physically demanding lifestyle so this must be taken into account when planning your training routine.
Make sure you sleep well around your training sessions, don’t be tempted to go in & hit up a session that requires 90% effort if you’ve only had 6 hours sleep. Both your brain & body won’t be able to cope with the demands & you run the chance of hurting yourself as well as causing more fatigue.
Eat well around your sessions, make sure you include a high amount of protein in your diet, I would recommend aiming for 1.5-2g per kg of bodyweight per day. Protein gives your muscles the nutrients they need to repair the damage done to the tissues when we train, aiming to get in a protein source within an hour of your session is a good plan as this will give your body the nutrients it needs to start recovering as quickly & effectively as possible giving you the best recovery post session.
Listen to your body, this is so important & is a really simple way to judge if you should be training that day or not and what would be appropriate. If you are sore or knackered then don’t push yourself to have a huge session, trust yourself & learn to listen to your body. The same applies for females around your menstrual cycle in relation to your training.
If you implement a training routine make sure you consider your current commitments & lifestyle. Be realistic with the time you have in terms of each session duration & how many times a week you can commit to training. Start easy & progress overtime, you are far better doing 3 quality full body sessions a week and recovering optimally around them as opposed to trying to hit 5 sessions a week back to back & killing yourself.
Progress gradually & sensibly overtime. Prioritise sleep & nutrition if you want to get the most out of your training. One of the easiest ways to lose your training motivation is to go in all guns blazing, push yourself too hard & reach the point of breakdown. It will lead to you being beat down both mentally and physically so be sensible & focus on your long term approach & a realistic plan.
Training is fantastic, but don’t forget or underestimate the importance of proper recovery & rest to get the best results you can & stay injury free. Focus on you, find a routine that you enjoy & works for your life.
I hope this helps, if you have any questions on what you should be doing in your training then feel free to drop me a message through the comments!
Have a great week,