Rest Days? The How and the Why for Improvement in Fitness

I bet you thought you would not hear me talk of this subject, rest. Yes I do take rest days, although I will be honest with you, this is an area I personally have trouble with. As you get more and more into fitness you may find yourself having emotional issues over a rest day. Don’t laugh it happens!

Rest is important and I will tell you why and how to incorporate rest in your week as well as into your workout.

Recovery is a generic term used to describe a return to a state of readiness. It could apply to a number of things in life. In fitness “recovery” means a physical and/or a mental break. Whether you are weekend warrior (which I hope you are not), a high performance athlete, (which I visualize for you), or you exercise for general health and good looks; recovering is essential for success and progress.  Recovery will provide a replenishment of nutrients and energy stores, (remember that term from my last article, hint: muscle glycogen), muscle repair and rebuild and last but not least a mental break.  Like “Ahhh, a day off!”

There are a variety of categories of recovery that can be broken down into long-term and short-term. We will start with long-term since it’s one I know you already know how to do- sleep. I will address short-term recovery in my next article. It is related more to physical exertion during your workouts. Long-term is between workouts.

Sleep shall not be underrated; it is by far (next to hydration, nutrition, love…etc…), the most important element to health and fitness.

In general, one or two nights of poor sleep won’t have much impact, but consistently getting inadequate sleep can really mess you up. At first you won’t notice it because they are subtle changes in hormone levels, especially those related to stress. As you already know hormone balance is crucial to health. Studies have shown sleep deprivation can lead to increased levels of cortisol (a stress hormone) as well as a decreased activity of human growth hormone (which is what repairs tissue and builds muscle). To make matters worse you think when you are low in long=term rest you start to feel you are working harder than you really are, so get a decrease in aerobic endurance. I bet you see the picture here, but in case you don’t allow me to lay it out.

You want to get in shape, get healthier and loose weight. You start the program and you have a plan and you have made a commitment, that is great, but unless you are getting enough sleep; which is about 7 to 9 hours a night you are going to have a hard time.

Your workouts will feel hard and unpleasant. You are not getting the physiological recovery, muscle repair, fuel replenishment because your hormones are off and to make matters worse once again, cortisol production is up (that stress hormone) which is related to belly fat, agh what a mess! No wonder you don’t want to work out.

Here is a cheap and easy solution – go to bed! (I know Jay Leno is back on late night but it’s not worth it).

Another piece you can include in your repertoire of healthy living techniques that will help you sleep is hydration. Most people are quite dehydrated, but because they've never been super-hydrated they have no idea just how dehydrated they really are. How does this affect your sleep?  The more dehydrated you are the harder it is for your body to recharge and detoxify. The longer it takes for your body to detoxify the more sleep and energy your body requires. This keeps you awake or wakes you up and then you can actually create sleeping patterns like this.

I know what you are thinking: “if I drink a bunch of water I will have to get up at night and pee”, yes that may be true although its better then not sleeping because of all the other issues related to dehydration. You will find it is much easier to fall back asleep after “tinkling” (as my mother so fondly called it). You may even get so good at it that you can do it in your sleep.

I want you to experiment with increasing you H2O intake to one gallon a day for two weeks and see what happens. I am going to bet that you sleep better, you’ll look better and “bonus” you will drop weight!

So try it, what have you got to loose? Oh yea weight!