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The Difference Between Rest and Recovery

Whether you are an avid athlete or take a more relaxed approach to exercise, chances are you have heard the terms ‘rest’ and ‘recovery’. Both terms are extremely important to ensuring best performance whilst keeping our bodies safe from harm. Although used interchangeably by some, they are drastically different concepts.

Why rest and recovery days are important

Once you have caught the workout bug it can be hard to stop, however, working in rest and recovery days is vital if you wish to achieve a high level of fitness safely.

What are exercise rest days? 

What if we told you that an important part of an exercise training plan involved sleeping? That is exactly what rest days, or rest periods, are for. 

Essentially, exercise rest days involve taking a break from any form of exercise to allow your body the time to replenish energy stores and maintain hormone levels. 

Whether you are relaxing at a spa, in front of the TV or grabbing some cheeky zzz’s, rest days must be part of your training schedule.

Why is a rest day important in exercise?

You know that high you feel after a training session? If you don’t give your body enough time to rest, you may start to feel them less often. 

Take rest out of the equation and your cortisol levels, the hormone associated with stress) will increase whilst your growth hormones (the hormone associated with tissue repair) will decrease.

What is exercise recovery? 

Have you noticed that every training plan seems to have ‘easier’ days slotted in here and there? Those are recovery days. 

Active recovery helps to soothe sore muscles and repair any small muscle fibre tears that occur during a vigorous workout. 

Unlike rest periods, active recovery involves gentle exercise and should be strictly planned and adhered to. 

Are recovery days necessary?

Definitely. Many believe it is the physical act of exercise that makes you stronger. Actually, your body strengthens itself during recovery periods. 

Also, your body is able to adapt to the strain it has gone through, whilst simultaneously replenishing your energy stores and repairing body tissue during recovery periods. 

Rest and recovery frequently asked questions

What should you do on rest days?

Here is our essential to-do list for your rest day:

  • Drink water
  • Eat nutritious foods
  • Relax
  • Sleep

How often should you take rest days?

The number of rest days incorporated into your training plan will depend on the type of exercise you are doing and your ability level. Seasoned athletes will need smaller resting periods than those just starting out. 

Unfortunately, there is no easy answer to this question. It is best to discuss this with your personal trainer who can offer advice tailored to your goals and ability.

Is one day of rest enough?

The length of time required to fully rest and restore your body will vary from person to person. Some may not require a full 24 hours whilst others may benefit from longer. 

Similarly, the type of exercise you do will impact the amount of rest time you need. Hitting the gym hard and taking part in an iron man will require very different periods of rest.

It is important to seek advice from a qualified personal trainer to ensure you are resting for an optimum period following a workout.

Is active recovery better than rest?

It isn’t really a question of which is better than the other. Both are essential to ensuring your body restores energy, manages your cortisol and growth hormone levels and repairs and strengthens your muscles.

How many recovery days do you need?

Similar to rest days, there is no one-size-fits-all answer. Your recovery period will depend on the type of exercise and your ability level. 

You must discuss incorporating recovery days into your training plan with your personal trainer, who will be able to offer tailored advice to help you meet your fitness goals.

What should I do on my active rest days?

The type of light training you invest in will depend on the activity you are recovering from. Essentially, you are aiming to oxygenate and circulate the blood, flush out any chemical byproducts from your workout and also reduce mental fatigue by enjoying a less strenuous activity.

Why not try a yoga or stretch class, walking, easy running on a treadmill or some light weight lifting?

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