After finally getting my mojo back and training for the last 6 days straight, today is my scheduled rest day. When I’m filled with enthusiasm and commitment as I am currently for my training, having a rest day feels like the end of the world. I spend all my free time wishing I could go for a run, ride or lift some weights. This morning I was so restless that I settled for some yoga.  But if I have learnt anything during my training periods, it is that if you don’t rest your body, it will find a way to force you.

As someone who feels as if they have had every injury in the injury encyclopaedia, I can retrospectively say that I may have avoided many of them if I had listened to my body and eased up a little.  That’s such a hard concept when you are trying to build strength, fitness, health or even lose weight, you feel like having a ‘rest day’ is a missed opportunity for improvement, when in fact it is the exact opposite.  Rest days allow our body time to recover and heal from the strain we have place on it during our training – both physically, physiologically and psychologically. By allowing our bodies the chance to recover we can maximise training gains and minimise our chance of injury, illness, overtraining and burn out.

Each time we ride, run, swim or lift, we push our body to its limits and often cause minor trauma to our bones, joints, muscles and tendons. This trauma results in inflammation of these structures as part of the natural healing process, if we continue to add insult to injury by training, we prolong this process and subsequently delay healing and likely negatively impact our performance through injury or by not getting the gain in strength and fitness that we want. There are also changes that happen on the cellular level during training, that require time to bounce back to the normal steady state of things.  Only today a friend commented to me how tired she was feeling after ramping up her training this week despite sleeping perfectly – her body was telling her it needed rest, it needed to recover and heal.  What we do when we skip our rest days is actually the complete opposite to our intention, we reduce our gain in performance by impairing our body’s ability to heal and strengthen where it needs to.

Rest days aren’t just important for us physically, they also play a huge role in keeping our minds healthy.  Rest days allow us to appreciate and reflect on our training, and also to psychologically regroup and prepare for the next block of training. Without these days, there is a tendency to become burnt out or stressed about training and for our training to become more of a chore than something we enjoy. Speaking from experience, this is when we tend to fall of the wagon completely and lose our enthusiasm for training at all - and we all know when this happens it is so much harder to jump back on that wagon!  Allowing both our minds and bodies the chance to rest is likely to result in higher levels of motivation and reduced levels of stress about both our training and our life balance.

So the moral of the story? Yes, rest days may sometimes feel like the worst type of torture, but missing ONE day of training far outweighs missing many due to injury or burn out. So rest up and be the best athlete you can!

Donna xx


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