When you’re starting out with CrossFit it can be easy to get carried away and want to spend all your time in the box.
I get it! The high-energy and fun environment, the post-workout high and seeing results can quickly become addictive. However, if you go too hard, too fast, you may find you end up setting yourself back.
Why rest days are important?
When you take a day off, you are doing your body a big favor. Time away from the gym prevents overuse injuries by giving your body the time it needs to recover.
As you work out, especially doing CrossFit, you are demanding a lot from your muscles. Taking rest days gives them the chance to repair and grow. You are also giving your immune system a chance to recharge so you don’t wind up with a cold because of over-exertion.
Rest is also important to prevent burn-out. Too much of anything, even something as good as CrossFit, can result in you feeling as though you have had enough and don’t want to go back.
How often should you rest?
When you are starting out with CrossFit it is important not to overdo it. Your coach may recommend a rest day in between each session while your body gets used to all the new activities.
As you progress, it’s not uncommon to workout 5 days a week but you will need to be very intentional about taking rest days when needed. Additionally, it’s important to note that even when training 5 days a week, not everyday is “max effort”. This will help maximize results while giving your body the time it needs to recover from intense workouts.
In terms of injury, you may need more time off than usual. Speak with a coach about the best approach for helping a sore muscle or ligament recover. They may recommend training at a lower intensity than usual or a complete break for a period of a week or more.
What to do on your rest days?
Rest days don’t mean reverting back to old, bad habits.
As you become more adapted to exercise, you may actually start to look at rest days as annoying! All of a sudden, the prospect of exercise is stimulating rather than daunting.
If this is the case, mix up the exercises you do on your rest day. Work on mobility, do some pilates or go for a leisurely bike ride. Take a dance class or do an outdoor activity like paddle boarding or kayaking, to work out a different set of muscles and give your nervous system time to relax.
On your rest day, don’t try to push your heart rate. You may find some simple stretching is all you need before the next workout. Another idea is to book a massage or physiotherapy session for your rest day, to smooth out any areas which have locked up during your workouts.
Get some decent sleep on your rest days to really help your body to be in peak condition for your next workout. What’s more, pay attention to what you’re eating, filling up on healthy snacks. Look for good sources of protein, carbs and fats. Reach for fresh, home-cooked meals and snacks. Consider planning out the week or days ahead by doing some shopping and meal prepping. Staying organized is an integral part of your fitness routine and days away from the gym can be a big help.
For a balanced life, rest is as important as activity. Give yourself the time you need to recover your strength and you’ll find you perform better next time you’re at the gym.