The kids are back in school and you can finally hit the gym as much as you want. If you’re anything like me, you’ll usually hit it hard the first few weeks now that you have the freedom to do so. But, is it good for the body? And how many rest days should you have?
Well, the answer involves many factors….
1. The intensity of your exercise
If you’re lifting weights, the heavier you lift, the more you max out your muscles. If you’ve taken most of the summer off and then hit the weight room going full blast, you’re going to need more recovery. Recovery is healing your body! The same goes for a long run. You decide to go for an hour run when you’re used to 20 minutes, it’s probably not the best idea to jump out of bed and workout hard the next day. UNLESS, you’re just not that sore.
2. What your body is used to
This is a bit similar to the above, but if you’re an avid exerciser that works out the same muscle groups consistently, then the less rest you’ll need.
3. Your age
The older we get the slower our muscles heal after a workout, so the more rest we’ll need. This all starts to happen in our 20’s by the way. Don’t go comparing yourself to what you were able to do in high school with intense 2 hour workouts daily! If you’re 40, it’s a different story.
4. Your body type
I’ll get a little geeky here, but it’s interesting to know we’re all made up of 2 different body types. Those with more slow-twitch muscles (lean, smaller build), and those with fast twitch muscles (larger skeletal structure and bigger muscles).
Slow-twitch muscles are the aerobic ones. They have endurance, but they also injure more easily. If you have this build, you’re more prone to injury when you lift heavy weights or push it really hard. You would be best doing low-intensity workouts that are long in duration. You could probably go run a marathon pretty easily if you wanted too, so that’s a bonus! But, you’ll need more rest days between intense workouts.
Fast-twitch muscles are great for weight lifting, sprinting, high intensity workouts. Going fast and hard. You can most certainly injure these, too, and you may not need as much rest time between workouts. But, people with this build may tire out more quickly, even with weight-lifting or cross-fit. A good balance of cardio is needed.
5. The muscle groups we work
Obviously, if you’re working larger muscle groups you’ll need more rest and recovery. More muscles fibers are being injured and need more time to heal. Smaller groups won’t take as long. If you’re doing tons of heavy squats you would need more rest vs. bicep curls.
BTW–What causes soreness anyway?
Like all exercises, we tear tiny muscle fibers and this is the soreness we feel. Don’t be too disturbed by this. It’s natural. You just have to know your body and the difference between injury and soreness.
Stretching is a vital part of exercise. It feels good, reduces injury and is essential after a workout, but stretching does not lessen soreness no matter when you do it. I was surprised by this actually.
Lastly…and more importantly. Listen to your body! If you are extremely sore take a day off. If you get to a point where you’re not sleeping well, take 2 days off. (Exercising too much can actually cause insomnia.) Rest is as important as reps! Especially, if you’re going all out. If you haven’t worked out for a while, take it slow in the beginning. This is about your health… and your body is trying to tell you something.
And rest doesn’t mean lying on the couch by the way. You can do light yoga, a swim or walks. Staying mobile is a good thing!