Exercise is great for your mind and body. But can you exercise too much? The answer is yes! Rest days are essential for athletes at all fitness levels; everyone needs a rest day, from the pro football player to the stay-at-home mom.
6 Signs you need a rest day:
Resting heart rate is elevated: If your resting heart rate is more than 10 beats above your normal resting HR, that's likely a sign your body needs a rest. Elevated HR is a sign of stress as your body pumps more oxygen to the recovering muscles.
Feeling tired: Insomnia or common sleep disturbances are signs of overtraining. This is because your central nervous system(CNS) is overstimulated and trying to heal your muscles. If you don't sleep long enough for a few days in a row, your reaction time, cognitive function, and endurance will decrease.
Moody: Typically, your mood improves as you exercise. But overtraining has the opposite effect. It could lead to depression due to prolonged stress on the CNS.
Feeling sick: regular exercise can help boost your immune system. But once again, too much can compromise your health and lead to illness.
Constantly sore: Muscle soreness is expected, but anything longer than 72 hours should warrant a rest day.
Several bad workouts in a row, or you notice you're not getting any stronger/fitter.
Despite being healthy, exercise can strain the mind and body. Exercising daily without taking a rest day can be physically and mentally exhausting.
When you don't allow your body to rest, you are overtraining, which depletes the glycogen stores in the muscles. Muscle glycogen is an essential fuel for intense exercise, whether the exercise is aerobic (running, cycling) or anaerobic (sprints, weightlifting). This depletion then triggers your body to use protein for energy, so then there will be less protein to aid in the growth and repair of your sore muscles.
Consequently, without a rest day, your muscles, joints, and other vital structures do not have adequate nutrients and time to repair themselves. Overtraining also leads to mental exhaustion and a greater likelihood of making mistakes while training and in other areas of life. Continually pushing on without a rest day will eventually lead to injury.
How do you avoid overtraining? Athletes should take a rest day roughly every 7 to 10 days or as needed to help the body and mind recover. A rest day can be an active day that incorporates gentle exercises such as walking or yoga. Alternatively, you may opt for a full day of "rest-n-relaxation," binge-watching shows.
Coach Jillian is a professional triathlete who has competed in races around the world. She specialized in non-drafting Olympic distance races, specifically the Lifetime Fitness Series and 5150 series, which qualified her for the prestigious Hy-Vee Triathlon from 2011-2014. Jillian graduated from the University of Missouri with a nutrition and fitness degree and is now an ACSM Certified Personal Trainer. She continues to race as a Guide for Elizabeth Baker on the USAT Para National Team.