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.