Focus On: Rest Days

Good morning! Happy humpday 🙂 Hope the rest of your week is smooth sailing 😉

When I posted the call for “Focus On” requests on Facebook, rest days was a popular one. When to take them, how they work, etc.

Ask and ye shall receive, my friends <3

In our society, we’re taught to believe that results happen while action is occurring. As we’re working, we accomplish different tasks and we keep going. On and on, without a break, seeing the constant visible results from our hard work.

This isn’t actually the case with working out: results happen while we rest.


During our workouts, we create tiny tears in our muscles. When we allow the muscles to rest, the tissue is able to repair itself using proteins and their amino acids. This creates stronger muscles over time, which appear leaner, especially combined with the fat-burning process.

This is why we shouldn’t work the same muscle groups to fatigue two days in a row, to allow the muscles to rest and repair. Continuous workouts without rest will actually make us weaker- not stronger.

[Need help setting up a weights schedule? Check out *this post*]

From this article:

What Happens During Recovery?

Building recovery time into any training program is important because this is the time that the body adapts to the stress of exercise and the real training effect takes place. Recovery also allows the body to replenish energy stores and repair damaged tissues. Exercise or any other physical work causes changes in the body such as muscle tissue breakdown and the depletion of energy stores (muscle glycogen) as well as fluid loss.

Recovery time allows these stores to be replenished and allows tissue repair to occur. Without sufficient time to repair and replenish, the body will continue to breakdown from intensive exercise. Symptoms of overtraining often occur from a lack of recovery time. Signs of overtraining include a feeling of general malaise, staleness, depression, decreased sports performance and increased risk of injury, among others.

Rest days should be scheduled into a workout regime, to make sure that you’re getting at least 1-2 days of rest each week to prevent overtraining and allow the body to recovery and repair. Overtraining is a beast- you can read more about it *here*

Every year or twice a year, I’ll take 1-2 weeks totally off from working out. It’s a great opportunity to let my body fully recover, and a chance for my mind to refresh. When I get back into it, my love for exercising is renewed and it keeps me from burning out.

photo (36)

How do you know you need an *extra* rest day?

– You’re extremely sore. Not the “Oh, I feel my legs workout from yesterday” but “can’t walk today without cringing in pain” kind of sore.

-You’re exhausted. Usually when you’re sleep-deprived or just totally zonked, you won’t get an effective workout in anyway. The best best can be to go for a short walk or yoga sesh, or totally take the day off. You’ll feel twice as good tomorrow and won’t loathe your workout while you’re sleepily trying to meander through it.

-You’re sick. Some people say if you’re sick from the neck up (head cold, sore throat, etc) you can still work out, neck down (body chills) take the day off. I say use your best judgment. Only you know if you’re feeling up to it, or if you’re contagious and would get fellow gym-goers sick. I usually ask myself if working out would make me feel better, or worse. If it’s the latter, I stay home.

What to do on a rest day:

-Take the day off. Chances are that you probably won’t be spending the entire day watching TV on the couch, so it’s not like there won’t be any activity in your life that day, just nothing strenuous.

-Try something short, sweet and easy. A walk with your pup, gentle restorative yoga or stretch class, bike ride to the farmers market or leisurely swim are all good options.

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How often do you take rest days? Do you schedule them into your weekly workout plan, or go on an as-needed basis?

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  1. Katie @ Plates and Paste on August 24, 2011 at 1:18 pm

    I try to schedule them in…I am continually having trouble keeping up with a consistent workout schedule since week by week I have different things going on after work and find it hard to find time. Plus my body just refuses to wake up extra early most mornings :/ My goal is usually 2 weight days, 2 cardio days, 1 yoga day and 2 rest days.

  2. Ashley@MyFoodNFitnessDiaries on August 24, 2011 at 1:33 pm

    I usually rest 1-2 days a week, and it is definitely needed! I still try to go for a walk or something low key, but yes, rest days are crucial!

  3. Trainer Kjirsten @ Balanced Healthy Life on August 24, 2011 at 2:11 pm

    I schedule two rest days into my weekly workouts, but don’t have them set in stone when I’m going to take them. I usually do yoga and walk the dog on my rest days so I’m getting in some stretching and very light cardio but nothing that will leave me feeling tired. I’m a huge believer in the benefits of taking rest days.

  4. Shaya (Eye Girl Eats) on August 24, 2011 at 2:13 pm

    I try to do a strenuous (for me) workout about every other day, with walking + regular day-to-day activity every day between. This seems to be working the best for me for now!

  5. Averie @ Love Veggies and Yoga on August 24, 2011 at 3:09 pm

    I don’t really schedule my rest days. My workout intensity and resting ebbs and flows naturally with the course and flow of my life, work schedule, life stuff that pops up, childcare, parenting, etc…some days I just am “forced” into resting b/c of other things taking priority and that’s ok too 🙂

    Resting…yes, so important!

  6. Alexa @ Simple Eats on August 24, 2011 at 4:06 pm

    I love your idea of taking consecutive time off during the year to let your body completely relax. Genius!

  7. Stephanie on August 24, 2011 at 4:22 pm

    How would you recommend eating on rest days? I’ve heard both cases, where you should modify your diet to eat according to how many calories you’re burning and also that you should eat normally as you would when you work out hard.

    • Fitnessista on August 24, 2011 at 4:24 pm

      i tend to eat less on rest days because i’m not as hungry. it’s different for everyone, though

  8. Moni'sMeals on August 24, 2011 at 4:41 pm

    so important to take rest days. It is a challenge for me to do so, I am not going to lie but I make sure to. At least one day a week if not 2. I see how I feel and that is the best tool and I only tell my clients the same thing.
    Great write up Gina~

  9. Julie (A Case of the Runs) on August 24, 2011 at 5:28 pm

    Currently, I’ve been doing 1 rest day a week (Sunday), which is usually pretty low-key. I think at some point I will up this to 2 days, though I’m not used to “resting” on weekdays. Like you, I used to take 1-2 weeks off during the year, but not anymore, and this is really only because I haven’t taken any vacations or anything — which naturally spell “rest day” to me.

  10. Tracy @ Commit To Fit on August 24, 2011 at 6:52 pm

    Great post! I really like the idea of taking a full week off a couple times a year to allow the body to rejuvenate. I am going to take that advice 🙂

  11. Louise on August 24, 2011 at 7:10 pm

    Great post! I get so frustrated when people push themselves when they are sick and should be resting, sometimes the body just needs a good rest to recover fully, why not take a few days off and then go hard out once you’re fully recovered instead of dragging out the illness by punishing your body?! Sorry rant over!

    Uber cute pic of Bella 🙂

  12. Sara on August 24, 2011 at 7:37 pm

    I don’t really schedule rest days, but take them when I feel like it (which can be a dangerous habit; who ever really ‘feels’ like working out?). As I am not currently training to the intensity that I used to, I feel less need to have a day of ‘doing nothing’. I’m just as likely to bust a few yoga moves or go for a walk on a ‘rest’ day as to bust a few yoga moves/go for a walk and call it a ‘work out’.

  13. Rachael @ The RDrunner on August 24, 2011 at 7:47 pm

    I take 1 rest day per week, usually on my longest working day. I love working out so it’s hard for me but I know it’s worth it!

  14. Ali @ urbanfruitbat on August 24, 2011 at 8:34 pm

    I am SO bad at scheduling rest days, is it amazing. I love to do something physical every day. So what I usually do is make sure there is one day where the only activity I get is walking, so it is like and active rest day. This seems to work pretty well for me!

  15. Victoria @ The Pursuit of Hippieness on August 24, 2011 at 9:01 pm

    I always take at least one day off a week. I do find, however, that the only thing that really makes me feel better when I have a head cold is exercise! The endorphins are better than any medicine I could possibly take.

  16. mary on August 24, 2011 at 9:16 pm

    Seriously, you take off 1-2 weeks, 1-2 times a year?!?! I’ve been reading here since you were in OK and it seems like the only time you’ve taken off more than one active rest day was when you were injured that once. I only mention it because those of us without superhuman dedication like to know that we’re not the only ones who need rest. Heh.

    • Fitnessista on August 24, 2011 at 9:18 pm

      haha definitely not. i took 3 days off in a row this week, just because my body was tired 🙂 everyone needs to take rest, even when you love working out as much as i do <3

  17. Pam on August 24, 2011 at 9:30 pm

    Great post on resting! So many people are hard on themselves for taking rest days, which are essential to maximizing the benefits of working out in the first place. Thanks for sharing your expertise!

  18. Tara @ Sweat like a Pig on August 24, 2011 at 9:52 pm

    I lift weights Monday through Friday, and do some HIIT on Saturday. Sundays I usually take off, and I make sure I fit at least an hour long walk in. I definitely need my rest on Sunday and I never feel guilty about lounging around and having a lazy day!

  19. Julie on August 25, 2011 at 12:35 am

    Thank you so much for this post! My knee has been bothering me and I know it’s a big deal so I take rest days now. I am always reluctant to take rest days – I never plan them, but when I wake up in the morning on some days, I decide on an impromptu break. This works for me because I never know how I feel physically or emotionally and sometimes there are events that are rather involved. I only give myself one rest day a week though and make sure I’ve worked out at least 3 days in a row prior to the rest day. I guess it’s pretty calculated. 🙂

  20. Natasha (OveLoves) on August 25, 2011 at 7:30 am

    I don’t really schedule rest days but rarely will I go more than three days in a row without a rest, where the three in a row includes yoga. I can’t function if I don’t take rest days, they are more important for my mind then they are for my body.


  21. Annie@stronghealthyfit on August 25, 2011 at 9:55 am

    Thank you for this post! I think i’m in the middle of one of those weeks off right now, just feeling like my body really needs it. It’s good to hear that it’s ok and good to do that from someone like you who is so into fitness. You inspire me!

  22. Lisa on February 17, 2012 at 2:48 pm

    Is taking a week off because you’re sick count as a rest week?

    I try to take a week off from everything but walking once or twice a year. I’m not always good at it!

  23. ashley on September 14, 2012 at 3:16 pm

    Hi there! 🙂
    School just started (senior year!!! :D) and I try to fit my workouts in when I can..I have free block first some days and get up extra early to workout, and other days I do some fasted walking before breakfast sometimes…but lately with school..I get home and just want to sleep! I think it’s because I also hate evening workouts because I get all sweaty then have to get ready again to go out! And I have like boooo energy, even if I eat pre workout 🙁 Days like these are usually happening like 2x a week and I feel lazy not getting a workout in but I know I could smash it the next morning…I am also sleep deprived too though lol I’ll get up extra early to workout and therefore lose sleep alot of times…is it okay to take more than 1 rest day even when your serious about getting results?

  24. Sarah on November 28, 2012 at 6:51 am

    I’m a massage therapist so while I’m working I’m also really working my muscles. I started a yoga and palities routine. I work 4 days a week with one of the days in perticular seeing at least 3 clients which is 3hrs of workout. My question is I’ve been working out atleast 3 days and using Sunday as a day off from everything. Should I add a 2nd day to recover where I don’t work out or work (seeing atleast 1 client = 1hr of muscle work)?

  25. […] battery. One of my favorite bloggers, Gina wrote a “Focus On” post on the importance of rest days and I often go back to that post whenever I need a little reminder about WHY I need to […]

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    […] injury, you won’t be able to see the results you’re looking for. Include at least one day of active rest each […]

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