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Rest days vital to maintaining workout buzz

Take time to chill: personal trainer Becky Wright

I love it when people tell me how much they’re enjoying working out, that they’ve been bitten by the “fitness bug” and they can’t imagine not making the time to train. I only wish more people would get this excited.

But sometimes, amid all the excitement of pursuing a full-on training programme, many of us overlook one important factor — rest days.

Rest and recovery are both essential if you truly want to reach optimal health and be in the best shape. I know it can sound contradictory.

You may be wondering how it’s possible that being inactive can improve your health and fitness. Surely doing more will yield better results — whether you’re looking to improve performance or lose weight. In reality though it’s quite the opposite and overtraining is a very real issue that can result in a number of health problems.

These are some of the main reason you should factor in full rest days:

1, Rest prevents injury

When you exercise you’re putting stress on your body, most notably your muscles and your joints. While this stress is necessary to see adaptations and ultimately see positive changes, constantly putting your body through intense exercise every single day doesn’t give it the time it needs to repair itself properly. Continuing to train while in a state where you may not have fully recovered means your muscles and joints are weaker, and therefore you’re at a much greater risk of incurring an injury, as your body is just not capable of dealing with any additional stress.

2, Overtraining can weaken your immune system

Just like your muscles and joints, your immune system can also take a bit of a beating if you overtrain. Your immune system plays an important role in helping you recover after a workout. Therefore, if it’s constantly having to focus on helping repair your body after training, it’s less able to perform other functions such as fighting off infections and diseases, meaning you’re more susceptible to getting sick.

3, Overtraining, particularly cardio, can affect your sleep

Too much aerobic exercise, such as cardio, will cause your sympathetic nervous system to remain in a constant elevated state, meaning you’re likely to feel restless a lot of the time, which in turn may cause sleep problems and insomnia.

We all know how crucial sleep is for everyday function, but add this to the important role sleep plays in helping your body to repair itself and we can see how overtraining can have a double negative impact.

Not only may it reduce the amount and quality of your sleep, but this reduction may also hinder your body’s ability to do the necessary repairs before your next workout.

4, Psychologically you’ll feel better

I know very few people who can happily continue to work out every single day for an extended period of time. While a relentless training programme may seem like a good challenge at the start, sustaining such an intense schedule day in, day out may lead you to resent training, falling out of love with your programme and eventually giving up on it altogether. In this case, giving yourself a mental break is just as important as taking a physical break, as it’ll help to maintain your interest in working out for the long run.

As you can see, whatever training programme you follow it’s important to factor in rest days.

Many people I speak to admit to feeling guilty for taking a day or two off. But when you begin to understand why they’re a necessary part of the overall process to becoming fitter, stronger and healthier, it helps put things in perspective.

Like I always tell my clients, the best programme you can do is the one you can follow easily in the long run.

This means following a programme that factors in adequate recovery so your body doesn’t suffer burnout and your mind doesn’t end up hating the training process.

Becky Wright is a qualified personal trainer, nutritional therapist and international bikini fitness champion. She has worked with clients worldwide, including royalty. Contact her at www.beckywrightfitness.com or becky@beckywrightfitness.com