Obviously, the work we do at the gym is important to building our fitness. But did you know that what we do (or don’t do) outside the gym is just as, if not more, important to maintaining and improving our fitness! When we work hard, pushing ourselves to our limits in our WODs, we are stressing our body systems and breaking down body tissues. When we are at rest, especially during that long, deep sleep we should all be getting every night, is when our bodies are rebuilding and repairing those systems and tissues. If you don’t get enough rest or do enough to help your body recover, you can hit “plateaus” in your fitness journey where you seem to “stall out”, and possibly even regress slightly. As Crossfitters, we do some serious WORK. And the harder we work, the more important it becomes to take REST DAYS.
WHEN SHOULD I TAKE A REST DAY?
The classic Crossfit prescription for work vs. rest is 3 days on / 1 day off. This work to rest ratio is ideal for providing enough stimulus to encourage growth and challenge your limits without over-stressing your systems, and providing the necessary rest and recovery period to keep progressing. Other common prescriptions that yield similar results (based on a 7 day cycle) are 3 on / 1 off / 2 on / 1 off, and 5 on / 2 off. Keep in mind that these are all just suggestions, and if you can’t adhere to a regular schedule 365 days a year, don’t sweat it – just listen to your body, it will tell you when to take a rest day. Ever had a nagging pain, tenderness, or soreness that just didn’t want to go away? That was probably your body trying to tell you to stop over taxing/over stressing whatever body part was bothering you! Sometimes you just need to lighten the weights or lessen the reps to ease the strain on certain muscles or joints, sometimes you need to lay off of them completely. Our bodies know best what they need in terms of rest and recovery (not our brains), so listen to your body!
WHAT DO I DO ON MY REST DAYS?
Whatever the heck you want – except work hard! Do some mobility work, stretching, or light technique/skill work. Go for a hike, a light run, a surf, a paddle, or a swim. Get a massage, a chiropractic adjustment, or acupuncture treatment. Or just plain take it easy. Whatever you do, it should be something that allows your body to heal, doesn’t over stimulate or over stress your system, and most importantly something you enjoy! “Active” rest days can be beneficial because light activity can actually help circulate toxins out of the body, and circulate healing factors throughout the body. But don’t underestimate the power of complete rest days, both for physical and mental recovery and well being!
Having recently officially exited my youth (I’m not old – just not a spring chicken anymore), I can tell you from personal experience: nothing is more important to my functioning and performing optimally, than proper rest and recovery. Crossfit, like everything in life, is best enjoyed in moderation. So get in the gym, do some WORK, go out and play, take a break, and repeat!