The Importance of Rest
What are the first things that you think about when we talk about getting better at CrossFit? You probably think of putting in extra time on skill work, making sure you hit positions on your Olympic lifts, going through progressions, perhaps you even think about stretching and mobilizing. Not on the list of things I just mentioned, and one of the most important things in training, are rest days. Now I know rest days aren’t as tough as telling your friends and fellow athletes about how you’ve worked out 7 days in a row, however they will benefit you in the long run.
Rest days are a day for you to recover. This does not mean that you go for a 3 mile leisure run, or a marathon hot yoga session. A rest day is also not a time where you come in and work on pull-ups, muscle ups, or Olympic lift progressions. Those are called “recovery days”. I am talking about a rest day – a day to do nothing at all related to training. A rest day may include special things such as spending the night with your family watching a movie, perhaps catch up on some extra sleep or cook the family a nice breakfast. The goal of the rest day is to relax and let your body and mind recover, do something fun and don’t think about the gym or what the workout is.
So now that you know what a rest day is, how many rest days should you take?
At a minimum, you need at least one day off a week. Generally, two is better. Certain weeks you may even need 3 or more days off. There is no “one size fits all” answer to how many days you should be taking off each week. Age, amount of quality sleep, diet and many other factors affect how often you should take a rest day. Many of these factors vary from week to week and therefore so will your rest days. Do not get stuck with the mindset that you've rested already this week. It is important to listen to your body and how it feels.
We recommend training no more than three days in a row before taking a rest day. In general we have found that the fourth day sacrifices some intensity in your training, and thus makes it less effective. Fatigue, loss of strength and injury are all major concerns when you perform at a high intensity level over a 4-5 day consecutive period. Overtraining not only has adverse affects physically, but will also affect your mental state. When your body no longer operates the way you are used to, or you're unable to complete lifts and weights that you normally can, your mind is led toward frustration and irritability. This is hard to deal with and not a positive place to be in. A positive mindset leads to enjoyment of training as you successfully make a lift or complete reps in the time period you set out to.
As I’ve said there is no right answer to how many or how often you should take rest days. Perhaps you’ve already taken 3 days off and still feel exhausted. You may think “I should workout, but I just don’t feel right.” This is your body’s way of telling you to stay home. By continuing to push through you are wearing your body down the point where you will either get injured or get sick. Listen to your body and remember how important a rest day is for your continued growth and development.
Here is a helpful article from Breaking Muscle. Take a few minutes to read and learn about what key factors should be identified in terms of “rest.”
Enjoy the journey. Train hard and recover well.