Over the Winter holidays last year, I took off about a week from my training program. At first, I thought this was going to be a bad idea, but it turned out to be wildly beneficial to my overall fitness level. Although I take rest days every single week and give myself enough time to recover between workouts, I had never taken a big rest like this before, so I was surprised to see how strong and energetic I felt when I started working out again. I was suddenly PRing in the gym, especially in certain strength-training exercises where I had been stuck at a certain weight for many weeks.
We all know the importance of rest days, but what about an extended rest period? This larger break had me thinking that there must be some major benefits to taking off several days in a row. POPSUGAR spoke with Ridge Davis, personal trainer in West Hollywood, CA, who confirmed that this is true.
"Programming in rest periods in your overall training program is often overlooked but absolutely crucial to prevent physical injury and mental burnout from your exercise routine," Ridge says. When it comes to his own clients, he adds, "After eight to 10 weeks of consistent training, I program a full week of rest and recovery that includes stretching, massages, and mentally taking a break from workouts." Sounds pretty sweet to us!
That's not to say that Ridge doesn't schedule weekly rest days for his clients, but giving them this big of a rest gives the body a necessary reset. "This break helps your central nervous system to reset and digest all the training you fed your body over the course of eight to 10 weeks," he explains. "That way, when you return to your new training program, your body and mind are mentally fresh, physically stronger, and capable to grow and adapt to your new training program."
It's no wonder I came back from that whole week of rest feeling stronger than ever. My body was well rested and totally ready to hit the big numbers in the weight room that I wasn't able to accomplish before. In fact, at the end of February, I'm planning to take off another entire week — and just like Ridge prescribes, it will be full of massages and yummy self-care.
However, there's sort of a catch. The only way you really qualify for a big ol' break is if you're training hard. "If you're training five to six times per week with medium to heavy resistance training and high-intensity cardio, then this would warrant a seven-day rest," Ridge tells POPSUGAR. For those of us who are only working out a couple times a week, or whenever you can make time for the gym, your body doesn't need that big of a rest. That doesn't mean you shouldn't take weekly rest days! That just means you don't require several consecutive days off.
"If your body doesn't get enough rest, your body accumulates stress and starts producing a hormone called cortisol, a huge contributor in weight gain, a weakened immune system, and chronic illnesses like hypertension and diabetes," Ridge adds. There are real consequences to not giving your body enough rest, so make sure you're giving yourself enough time to recover, especially if you're hitting the gym multiple times a week.
Product Credit: Model Credit: @greicesanto