When you’re on your grind and totally in the #fitlife zone, we know how hard it can be to peel yourself away from the gym to take an off day, especially when you’ve just gotten into the groove of it all. You might even worry that you’re stunting your progress or being counterproductive by doing so. But rest days are crucial, not only to give your body time to recover from those hard, dedicated workouts you’ve been putting in, but recovery is a vital part of building. Here are times when it’s completely okay (and necessary) to take a rest day.
When you’re under the weather
There are some that might say that working out when you’re sick can help you knock out a fever faster, but even moderate activity can have an overall negative effect on the length and severity of it. A fever means that the body’s immune system is battling an infection — and shouldn’t deal with the stress from exercise on top of that. Body fluids also decrease when you have a fever, so if you attempt exercise, you’re more at risk for overheating and dehydration.
This is not to be confused with when you have more harmless symptoms, like a little cough or a runny nose, where experts agree that moderate-intensity workouts can be beneficial. But when you have the flu, the absolute best thing you can do is limit your activity, get plenty of rest, and keep well-hydrated.
When you’re exhausted
If you’re physically and mentally tired as the result of a lack of sleep, it’s best to avoid strenuous exercise until you’re well rested. When you engage in strenuous exercise when you’re fatigued, you’re more likely to have sloppy form which could result in injury. When your body is all-around tired, it won’t hold up as well to any activity. Instead, it’s best to catch up on your sleep before going at it again, and to build gradually to a comfortable pace.
If you notice that you’re constantly fatigued throughout the day, even after a good night’s rest, you may want to check with your doctor as that could be a sign of an underlying illness.
When you’re overly sore
A clear sign you’re overworking yourself is it you’re constantly sore, even if you’re doing the same routine. When you don’t allow adequate time for recovery, you’re actually derailing your progress. And if you start having sharp pains, do not try to work out to get rid of it. If you’re dealing with major soreness because you overdid it the last time you exercised, be conscious to make your following workouts more reasonable. It is possible to overwork yourself, so be sure to properly pace yourself and give your body appropriate and adequate recovery.
When you’ve hit a plateau
If your routine is bogging you down or even making you angry, and you find that you start to dread your work-out, it might be a good time to take an off day to re-evaluate your actions. Momentum is extremely important in any fitness plan, and doing a routine that either burns you out or doesn’t motivate you can possibly set you up for failure. Take a day off to see what’s working in your routine, and what’s not.
You may want to re-evaluate your eating habits to see if that’s the cause of your weight-loss plateau, and use the day to get back on track with some healthy, nutritious meals.
It’s great to push ourselves, but we need to know the difference between pushing ourselves and pushing ourselves too hard. More is not always better. While we’d all undoubtedly love to have our dream bodies in time for summer (hello bikinis!), it’s important to remember that fitness isn’t a race, but rather a lifestyle of healthy choices.