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How much rest on a rest day?

Friday, October 26, 2012

An interesting point came up on my previous blog about rest days. What does rest day mean? Does it mean no activity, or light activity? How much time does one need for recovery after hard workout days?

I am probably someone who is overly cautious when it comes to working out. I often am guilty of undertraining, rather than overtraining.

Recovery and rest days are absolutely important. We don't build muscle and cardiovascular improvement while we are working out, but after, when we are 'resting'.

There's two types of muscle soreness. Lactic acid buildup, and delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS).

Lactic acid buildup is the 'burn' you feel when you lift something very heavy. This is anaerobic exercise where your muscle has burned up available oxygen.

DOMS is the soreness you feel the day after a workout. During intense workouts, microscopic tears occur in the muscle fibers. This is how you get muscle growth.

During a rest day, torn muscle is repaired, and made bigger and stronger. This is highly desirable, and how we improve our physical fitness.

But what is a rest day? Is it lounging in front of the TV? Is it a light workout?

If you experience muscle soreness to the point where you can't walk or lift your arms, then you overtrained. Being unable to move is damage, not improvement. Do light stretching and take a hot bath to ease the soreness. Wait until the soreness subsides before repeating the activity, but ease back the next time around.

A little muscle soreness is good. A walk around the block or park can actually be a good thing. Light activity stimulates blood flow, carrying more oxygen to stiff muscles. But do not engage in a 'workout'. Working out muscles undergoing DOMS will damage them. Many athletes and personal trainers alternate working out different muscle groups on different days to avoid overstressing them.

On my light activity days, I'll take a long, leisurely walk or bike ride - the long, low intensity activities. (I'll write more about the merits of low intensity workouts later). I don't worry about heart rate, or how many miles I go. I go as far as, "What's over that next bend?" or "Oh hey, look - dolphins! Where's my camera?" It's all about having fun: enjoying the sun, the sky, the wind, the sea, and quality time with the DH.

But sometimes on a rest day when I feel 'fatigue' (mind and body fogginess), I'll sit on the couch and read magazines, surf the 'net, or work on my beading projects.

My 'rest' days are usually leisurely, rather than sedentary.
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Member Comments About This Blog Post
  • IRP1114
    Great points. You are so right. We need to keep all of these things in mind as we balance workouts with daily life. I had rest days on my mind a few blogs ago. I was asking how others got their rest in. Seems like we all have our own ways to fit it in. On purpose, by coincidence or by listening to our bodies.
    1873 days ago
  • DEELB1
    even the 10 commandments calls for a rest day!
    1874 days ago
    Getting more blood to the muscles is the way to relieve the effects of DOMS, using the muscle is the best way to get the blood circulating. As you say, doing a workout isn't a good idea but repeating the same exercise that bought on the soreness but doing it at a lower intensity for a short time is the best idea.
    1875 days ago
    Good points. Rest is relative but I don't think it should ever mean not doing anything. A casual stroll or bike ride makes for a perfect rest day.
    1875 days ago
    I like taking a walk or doing yoga on my rest/recovery days. I am one of those folks who IS guilty of over doing it. So, I do need to make sure I take rest days to allow my muscles a chance to rest.

    And like you, there have been days I've been so tired, all I could manage was watching retro TV. Kojak anyone ??? Who loves ya baby. LOL !!!

    1875 days ago
    "Given the mounting evidence that being sedentary all day long is lousy for metabolism, I think every rest day should have SOME movement."

    BTVMADS: That's where my current line of thinking is going. I'll follow this up more in another blog.
    1875 days ago
    Rest is relative to what your body is used to doing. When I was at the peak of my HM training, a rest day would be a bike ride and yoga. This week, since I'm in post-race recovery mode, a rest day has been much more lazy (except for the 4 hours a day I'm on my feet teaching).

    Given the mounting evidence that being sedentary all day long is lousy for metabolism, I think every rest day should have SOME movement.
    1875 days ago
    I really like to push myself, so probably have a tendency to overtrain at times. So I've just recently decided to take a week off (since I have an unexpected work trip back east, it seems like good timing for this) and not worry about working out. Not that I won't do as you suggest are leisurely "active" things, like walking/sightseeing, etc. Just no planned resistance or HIIT or even long cardio activities.

    Good follow-up and response to questions the other blog brought up.
    1875 days ago
    A person's "rest" day is as unique as any of their workout's are!
    We are all on such different paths along this journey! It's really ALL so personalized and relative!

    For me, a rest day means no scheduled workout at the gym & doing nothing too strenuous outside the gym either. But that doesn't mean I won't go for a walk on that day... but it doesn't mean I HAVE to!

    I like to play it by ear! emoticon
    I am so much wiser with my workouts now that I know what it feels like to overtrain!
    1875 days ago

    Comment edited on: 10/26/2012 9:48:08 AM
    I got it all correct. Good blog
    1875 days ago
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