Rest Day: How Do You Know When Your Body Is Actually Recovered?

Without rest, our muscles, connective tissue, nerves and even bones cannot recover properly.

At the end of most classes our instructors urge us to take some extra time to stretch, tell us to stay hydrated and remind us to take a rest day every once in awhile. The first two are easy, but the idea of an off day brings up some questions. How often should we be resting? And what does resting truly mean? After we’ve rested, how do we know we’re ready to jump back into an intense class?

We checked in with TRX certified instructor Mandy Pearce for the inside scoop from someone who makes people sore for a living. Here are the key take-aways from our conversation about rest and recovery:

Rest is Kind of a Big Deal

Mandy believes that taking a day to rest is absolutely essential to increasing strength, building endurance and gaining muscle mass. She says that’s because in moments of rest the body utilizes the time to adapt to the physical stress of our intense workouts, and all of this makes us more able to go bigger and better the next time around. Working out essentially causes tiny rips and tears in our muscle fibers, and when the body has time to mend those tears that is when we see muscle growth. Without rest, our muscles, connective tissue, nerves and even bones cannot recover properly, which can have a negative impact on our emotional well-being, overall health and of course physical performance.

Everyone Needs to Make Time

Who needs rest the most? In short, everyone. But, as one would imagine, each body has different needs for physical and mental recovery so there is no single right answer when it comes to rest. Mandy emphasizes the importance of learning how your own body functions and recognizing the signs for when your body needs rest. For some, a day off might require little to no activity at all beyond that of everyday life, and for others a rest day might mean taking a 45-minute spin class. She says a lot of it has to do with the intensity, length and frequency of your workouts combined with individual nutritional needs and if they are being met regularly or not. Still, a key part to getting your rest requirements right is to listen to your body rather than following someone else’s rest schedule.

The Body Knows Best

We’ve all been sore, but is there a difference between the so called good-sore and simply experiencing pain? Mandy says absolutely. Though she knows that a solid workout will create some level of soreness, especially for those new to fitness, she says this is not cause for concern as it is simply evidence of how you’re challenging yourself, working hard and a reminder of the process the body is going through to adapt to new physical stress. Key signs that the body needs to rest are the inability to concentrate because the mind seems to be dragging behind, or severe or debilitating body aches, especially when it lasts for several days. It’s recognizing the difference from being stuck in a lazy mindset and being physically or mentally exhausted to the point where it could become unsafe to get up and workout. Again, it comes back to learning the unique way that your own body functions.

You Will Come to Understand Your Body

She admits that it takes a little bit of experience to begin to understand your body’s signs and signals for when rest is required or when full recovery has been reached, but assures us that it does become easy to identify with time! The indicators will differ from person to person, but Mandy says she knows she’s ready for another tough workout when any previous soreness has dissipated or has become dull and unobtrusive, and when she finds herself in a positive mental state and feeling generally refreshed.

You Are Your Own Best Resource

It’s easy to plan a workout every single day. That’s why smart scheduling becomes a necessity in terms of getting enough rest and recovery time. Mandy recommends staying lightly active on rest days (think slow flow Yoga or cycling) so booking a class that falls on a rest day is okay, as long as the type of class fits into the “rest” category for you as an individual. Staying well hydrated is an easy-to-control way to support your own body’s recovery, as often recommended by our instructors. Mandy also feels that getting consistent, good-quality sleep and proper nutrition are the standards that everyone should hold themselves accountable to in order to help their body recover safely and timely. The power of rest day and all of its benefits are entirely in your hands.