Rest Days 101: Why Taking A Break From Training Is Just As Important
Getting into a workout routine is exciting and once you get into the swing of things, the idea of taking a day off isn’t that appealing. You want to keep getting better at your chosen workout or sport and it seems like taking a day or two off would derail your progress and make you weaker, not stronger.
The opposite is actually true. You won’t see the results that you’re looking for if you work out seven days a week. Whether you do Crossfit or Brazilian Jiu Jitsu (or both), you can definitely benefit from taking a few rest days every week.
WHY TAKE A REST DAY?
Sure, in theory it sounds good to take a rest day or two each week, but is there a good reason why? It’s easy to think that a rest day is a bad idea because you’re missing out on gains in your Crossfit gym or you’re not doing anything to improve. While that can be a common attitude, it’s important to think about rest days in a new and positive way.
According to Pete McCall in Daily Burn, CSCS and an ACE-certified personal trainer, working out is a stressor on your body. When you’re not working out, that is helpful for your muscles, which can repair themselves and get used to the hard work that you have just put them through.
The truth is that working out seven days a week won’t make you stronger and fitter. Your goal with Crossfit workouts is to be strong, but working out day after day will make the opposite happen. As coach Mike Tromello says in Breaking Muscle, “But in order to get strong you can’t get caught up in lifting all the time and doing every workout in sight in pursuit of getting better. You must understand that to build strength, you must rest.”
WHAT IS RECOVERY?
Jonathan N. Mike, M.S. and Len Kravitz, Ph.D take a look at recovery for athletes in their University of New Mexico research called “Recovery In Training: The Essential Ingredient.” They have found that allowing your body to recover is the only way to make sure that you’re working out the way that you want to (i.e. strong and high-intensity) and that you canalso get better day after day.
They sum it up perfectly when they call recovery “an integral component of the overall training program.”
They quote P.A. Bishop, E. Jones, and Woods A.K. who say that recovery is to “meet or exceed performance in a particular activity.” That’s just not possible without rest days.
THE PLACE OF ACTIVE REST AND RECOVERY IN YOUR WORKOUT SCHEDULE
There are several different kinds of rest days. There is the rest day where you don’t go to the gym at all or do anything physically active (although going for walks is always a smart idea). There is an active rest day when you do something that is much calmer and easier on your body. And then there are active recovery days that are essentially easier workouts.
As Daily Burn puts it, “active rest days” are something that you should work into your schedule. For Crossfit athletes, going jogging or taking a yoga class are both good ideas.
Jonathan N. Mike and Len Kravitz call recovery active or passive. For them, active recovery would be going for a walk and passive would be something that doesn’t involve going to the gym.
In the case of Crossfit workouts, active recovery can mean still working out, just not quite as intensely. In Box Life magazine, Joe Wuebben talks about the importance of active recovery. This means that instead of taking a day completely away from the gym, your workout is “low intensity.” While you would typically give 100 percent on most days or at least 80-90 percent, on these days you want to exert 60-70 percent of your effort. You can hike, play a sport, cycle, or swim.
The reason why active recovery works so well is because of the lactic acid-induced sore muscles you experience from tough workouts. According to Box Life, the easier workouts of active recovery will start “lactate oxidation” since your metabolic rate will be continuously high. You also won’t experience delayed muscle onset soreness, or DOMs, quite so much.
REST DAYS FOR CROSSFIT
How do rest days work when you’re a Crossfit athlete? Let’s take a look.
If you’ve been doing Crossfit for a while, you’re probably familiar with this schedule: three days of Crossfit workouts and then one rest day, and so on and so forth.
The Boxmag mentions a fascinating study at Brazil’s Catholic University of Brasilia. Dr. Ramires Tibana was at the head of this research which focused on Crossfit and rest days.
Nine men whose age averaged at 26 years old did one WOD which was high-intensity and then a second one 24 hours later. Some gymnastics exercises plus power and strength were included. The first workout had a metabolic conditioning (metcon) near its conclusion which was 34 kg of 15 power snatches and 30 double-unders. Each man did as many as they could in 10 minutes. The second workout’s metcon was 25 target burpees and 12 minute AMRAPs of rowing 250 m.
What happened? The nine men had fewer anti-inflammatory cytokines and their immune systems were down a bit.
It’s interesting to note that the study authors concluded that rest days are a great idea. They suggested that the Crossfitters do one of two things: take 48 hours (instead of 24) to rest between workouts or make the workouts a bit easier after two days of going hard.
In other words, these conclusions suggest rest days or active recovery days, and it’s smart to incorporate both of these into your weekly routine. How many rest days is a personal decision but it seems to make sense to have one full rest day and one active recovery day a week along with five Crossfit workouts.
REST DAYS FOR BRAZILIAN JIU JITSU
In terms of how many rest days to take when you’re a Brazilian Jiu Jitsu athlete, the key is to prevent injuries.
Coach Samuel Spiegelman suggests on Breaking Muscle that one rest day is taken per week (at the very minimum). He talks about ways to tell that you are working out too much, or overtraining. If you feel like your workouts are worse than usual, you’re dealing with muscle soreness (and, therefore, inflamed muscles), you’re exhausted, and you don’t feel like your usual happy self, you are most likely working out too often.
“Take at least one day off,” writes Spiegelman. “Some people may need more, but start with one day off and see if you are feeling any better. Your only job on that day is to eat, hydrate, and rest. Getting some good nutrition and water in your body is going to help the repair process.”
Without rest days, your reaction times won’t be as fast and injuries will be more likely to occur, which no one wants. The problem with working out day after day and not taking any days off is that the muscle tears that occur from exercise don’t get a chance to go back to normal.
It’s difficult to get into the mindset of accepting that rest days are just as important as the workout itself. When you’re a Crossfit or Brazilian Jiu Jitsu athlete, of course you want to get better at your chosen sport. As you can see, rest days are a crucial part of your schedule. Whether you always want to take one rest day and one active recovery day each week or see how you feel depending on the intensity of that week’s workouts is up to you.
Remember that taking rest days mean that you’re doing something amazing for your body and it’s ability to recover… so you can crush the next day’s workout.
Bedosky, Lauren. “Why Science Says You Should Take More Rest Days.” Daily Burn, 15 November 2017, dailyburn.com/life/fitness/rest-day-benefits-active-recovery/.
BJJEE. “Rest Days: It’s Part Of The Program. What Happens To Your Body When You Take A Day Off To Rest.” BJJEE, 7 January 2018, bjjee.com/health/rest-days-its-part-of-the-program-what-happens-to-your-body-when-you-take-a-day-off-to-rest/.
Imbo, William. “Active Recovery And The Difference Between Rest Days And Recovery Days.” Box Life Magazine, boxlifemagazine.com/active-recovery-the-difference-between-rest-days-and-recovery-days/.
Mike, Jonathan N., M.S. and Len Kravtiz, Ph.D. “Recovering in Training: The Essential Ingredient.” The University of New Mexico. Web. September 25 2018.
Spiegelman, Samuel. “How To Maximize BJJ Training With Minimum Time.” Breaking Muscle,
Tromello, Mike. “The Importance Of Respecting The Crossfit Process.” Breaking Muscle, breakingmuscle.com/fitness/how-to-maximize-bjj-training-with-minimum-time
Wuebben, Joe. “Rest Up, Crossfitters.” The Box Mag, 14 February 2017, theboxmag.com/crossfit-training/rest-crossfitters-12278.