As we all know too well, when we are having a well-earned rest day we feel that ache of guilt. Weeding its way into our minds we feel a rest day is cheating. Especially if we have the goal of losing our holiday weight or are looking to compete at the highest-level we can.


The fact of the matter is our bodies do a lot of there ‘re-modelling’ as we put it during these rest periods. During our rest periods the body strengthens, repairs and re-builds itself and uses the time to adapt to all the stresses we have placed upon it.


Recent studies have actually had result stating that rest periods between hard training will actually make you fitter!


So what actually happens?

During rest the body adapts to all the differing stresses that have been placed upon it. Replenishing energy stores and repairing damaged tissue. During any program the body will change, such as muscle tissue breakdown and the depletion of energy stores such as glycogen.


After a workout, your body will begin to repair damaged muscle fibers. Forming new muscle protein strands. Increasing in size, number and thickness, thus creating muscle growth. This adaption to exercise does not happen whilst you are exercising as the body doesn’t have the chance to commit energy to it, it actually occurs while you rest.


Most people confuse their recovery. Thinking that once they ‘feel’ replenished they actually are and think right back to the gym I go! That they have replenished the lost energy (with food) and are ready to go again.


Now in truth it’s dependant on the type of workout and intensity that you do. Some indeed can recover the same day, some might recover in a couple of days. Just because you have consumed energy (food) and feel all the expenditure (energy loss) has been replaced, this doesn’t mean your muscle tissue or ligaments have recovered. If you think about it, do body builders work the same muscle group several days in a row? The answer is no. They might train another body part as to ensure complete recovery of an area of the body they have worked previously.


The actually truth is, if you do not allow your body to recover sufficiently after intense exercise the body will continue to breakdown and symptoms of over training can occur.  This can lead to a decrease in performance and general malaise.


At first you probably won’t notice anything but after a while if you over train or don’t allow adequate rest time you will begin to see your progress decrease and in some points make none. Then of cause the more serious problems such as injury can occur. Then the whole vicious circle of injury, motivation and decreased progress can become a psychological factor.


Stirling University sports scientists in 2014 conducted a study of cyclists. In the study, 12 cyclists were split into two groups. One performed bursts of high intensity exercise, with short rest periods between, three times a week.


In each session, they went hard, but not as fast as sprint pace (90%) below sprint pace with a ratio of 4 minutes to 2 minutes rest this was repeated 5 times. The second control group exercised continuously for an hour at an easier pace, around 60%, repeating it three times a week. After a period of four weeks, they swapped programs. Tests showed that the first group, was most beneficial, leading to twice as big an improvement in power and performance.  By giving there body more time to recover between hard bouts of exercise.


So in conclusion look to include two rest days every five trained or one every four. This will give you a break and allow some good rest periods. Look to use a training log and set yourself smart goals that include rest periods.


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