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The Law of Rest Days

There would be no improvement without pushing yourself during training days, but we cannot stress the importance of rest days for athletes enough. You might believe that the more you train, the better you’ll perform, and we’re all about making those gains and the Law of Compound Gains. However, rest days are also crucial for optimizing your athletic performance.  

“A decline in performance should lead to a search for its cause and to a focus on the quality of your recovery. Remember, often doing less is more powerful than training more.” — Rountree Sage

Here’s why you should follow the Law of Rest Days.

Your muscles need it.

During exercise, your muscles experience micro-tears, which then heal and adapt to become stronger. You’re literally BUILDING muscle. This process is known as hypertrophy, and it’s the primary mechanism by which athletes build muscle mass and strength. Giving your muscles time to recover is essential for this process to occur effectively. After all, you want to get the most out of what you put in per the Law of Maximizing Gains. Sometimes getting the most out of it looks like adding a rest day.

You need rest days to allow your muscles to repair and regenerate. Is it just for muscle repair? Not at all. When you exercise, your body releases cortisol, one of the main stress hormones. If it remains elevated in your body for too long, your muscles might start to break down — You can say goodbye to all those “excess gains” you thought you were making by training day in and day out. Rest days allow your cortisol levels to return to baseline, which promotes muscle recovery and growth, rather than deterioration. You can also lower your cortisol levels through mindfulness and breathing activities

Preventing injury.

You also know that when you overdo it, you increase your chance of being injured. Rest days are crucial for preventing injury. While you may think of risk as coming from a big hit during a game or maybe going too big on a jump on the ski hill, overuse injuries are prevalent amongst athletes — especially those who don’t allow themselves to recover with a rest day. When you overtrain, you put too much stress on your muscles and joints, leading to chronic pain and inflammation. While you can combat both pain and inflammation with things like ibuprofen or perhaps CBD products, taking rest days can help prevent these issues in the first place.

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Maintaining motivation.

Now, we’ve talked a ton about mindfulness and mental health in training and unleashing your full potential — guess what else is impacted by taking a break? Rest days can have a positive impact on your overall mental health. It’s no secret that training and competition can be physically and mentally stressful! A day off can reduce stress levels (see the cortisol tip above) and improve mental clarity. This will allow you to return to your training regime and put yourself through the paces with renewed energy, focus, and motivation.

Avoid burnout and overtraining.

Rest days are also crucial for avoiding burnout. Nothing hinders your performance like losing your motivation in its entirety. Overtraining can lead to mental and physical exhaustion, impeding your ability to perform at your best. Overtraining also has symptoms that are the exact opposite of what you want. Training too much can create unshakable plateaus, make you gain or lose weight, and affect your sleep cycle, appetite, and overall energy levels. Regular rest days can help prevent burnout and other overtraining symptoms, allowing you to maintain high levels of performance (and motivation and joy!) over the long term.

It can still be active. 

Finally, we should say that a rest day doesn’t have to mean doing absolutely nothing — because, for many of us, that’s one of the biggest forms of torture out there! You can take an active rest day to ensure you still get your steps or add some healthy, rejuvenating movement into your day. Go for a pleasant stroll or leisurely jog through your favorite park or neighborhood, attend a yoga class, do some stretching at home, or do an outdoor activity you love, like a relaxed swim, paddle, or easy hike. Active rest days will help maintain blood flow, can bring you mental peace by switching out a taxing gym session for an activity you love, and yoga allows for breathing, stretching, and meditation — all of which can be an excellent way to reset.

While it can be challenging to slow down and take a break, even for a day, your body and performance will benefit greatly. Rest days are essential for optimizing your athletic performance. They allow your muscles to recover and regenerate, prevent injury, reduce stress levels, safeguard you from burnout, and promote mental clarity and renewed focus and motivation. That’s why we follow the Law of Rest Days to perform to our peak potential.

“It’s going to be a journey. It’s not a sprint to get in shape.” — Kerri Walsh Jennings

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