I work out almost everyday, the days I'm not working out, I'm riding. But what toll does that take on the body? Can the body take that much abuse constantly? A traditional workout schedule seems to be, warm up with cardio, leg day, the next day arm day etc. The thinking was to give the legs a day off when you were doing arm day. My workouts incorporate the entire body. So why is taking a day off or a week or two off from the gym and the bike beneficial?
When we workout to build muscle (let's forget the cardio part for now) we actually tear our muscles. If you have ever had a torn muscle you know it takes time to rebuild that muscle. Those microscopic tears, while ultimately beneficial in building new muscle, need time to rebuild. If you don't give yourself the proper nutrition, hydration, or time, you could end up with an injury. My general rule of thumb is one rest day for every 6 days of working out or riding. Every few months, I skip the gym for a week, sometimes even 2 weeks.
When do I know it's time for a long rest? When I'm bored, when my performance on the bike is questionable and when I just feel run down. Do I just sit around watching TV for a week? Not really. I tend to go for a walk, I may go to the gym for a slow 30 minute bike ride or a quiet swim. I may drop into a yoga studio for a session, I definitely get a massage, I re-evaluate my eating habits, try out new recipes and stretch everyday. When I return to the bike and the gym, I'm stronger, happier and feel amazing. My mind and body are reinvigorated, stronger and rested.
I also notice I sleep better and my resting heart rate has decreased. I've also spent time re-evaluating my eating habits, maybe try some new recipes and even sit around doing nothing but watch TV for a few hours a day.
I am a bit obsessive about fitness and I track my resting heart rate most mornings prior to getting out of bed. I don't have a fancy Fit-bit, so I do it the old fashioned way. My average is 58 beats/minute. If I start to see an increase into the mid 60s, I know it's time to take a long rest. While you don't have to do this, I find it helpful as I'm a bit obsessive with my fitness routine and it keeps me from over training, burning out, and possibly preventing an injury as well. If you think of it, keep a log of your heart rate, it really is helpful.
Don't feel guilty when taking a rest day, we deserve it, we are after all only human.
Karl Tettmann, Co-Founder. Avid health and fitness coach who just loves to ride.