The truth about taking a rest week.

Who would have thought we would agonise so much over having a rest?

It’s weird, but for lots of us, the fear of a week off from fitness is absolutely real.  Maybe you’re scared of losing some of your hard earned progress? Or maybe like me, you are afraid that a week out of routine, of pressing pause on those disciplines and good habits that took so long to create, will see you struggle to press play again in seven days time.

Up until now I haven’t taken a rest week (even when I felt I needed one) because I didn’t want to break my momentum.  I had a good routine going, I was committed, it was still working, I was happy and you know what they say; if it’s not broken don’t fix it. So I didn’t.  I don’t know about you but I also get very caught up in chasing milestones.  Like I want to get to the end of the round, then I want to make it 6 months, then a year… but I guess our bodies need us to realise those milestones will still be there even if we have a little break.

Okay, so I’m absolutely no authority on this subject but after doing some research and reading some very interesting articles, I decided after 60 weeks and 15 months of the Kayla Itsines BBG program I was long overdue for a break and the end of round 5 seemed like the perfect time..

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before and after: 60 weeks of BBG

 

As a general rule it is recommended that anyone participating in an intense exercise schedule should allow themselves a rest week every 3-4 months, and here’s why…

  • Recovery is vital. The body cannot continue making progress whether muscle gain or fat loss without it.
  • The body doesn’t improve, grow stronger or make changes while you are exercising; it actually does all of this in the period of time after you work out.
  • Taking a week off and giving your body adequate time to repair and recover can be just what you need to break through a plateau.
  • It helps to heal minor injuries such as sprains, strains, tears and joint pains.
  • Many people find they actually gain lean muscle during this week.
  • The nervous system also needs recovery after long periods of continuous training. Quite often ‘overtraining’ is actually to do with our nervous system not having time to recuperate.
  • Taking a week off can help us re-gain motivation and give us more focus in our workouts. This will all lead to better results.
7 Signs you are overtraining.
  1. Tiredness
  2. Feeling Weak
  3. Irritability
  4. Getting sick easily
  5. Loss of motivation
  6. Elevated heart rate
  7. Trouble sleeping

Although not every exercise schedule requires an entire week of rest (sometimes 1-3 rest days per week can be enough for you body to recover) it’s fair to say if you are experiencing any of the symptoms above, taking a rest week could be the most beneficial thing you can do for your body and well-being.

So that’s what the text books say.  But here’s how I found taking my very first, well earned, rest week.

The pros

I slept like an actual log – and I don’t just mean I slept well. I mean I couldn’t keep my eyes open most of the week.  When I did sleep, it was sooo deep that for the first time in a year and half, I didn’t hear my own baby when she woke up in the morning and cried for me to go get her from the nursery.  You could definitely say my nervous system was recuperating in the form of,… it turned off and caught some Z Z Z z z z z z z z’s

Some of my old lady aches and pains got better. – I have a slightly dodgy left knee and have some stiff and achey shoulders and a few days into my rest week these began to feel much better than they had in a long time.

I felt more productive in my everyday life. – I seemed to relish having one less thing to think about for a week, my house looked a little cleaner, my washing pile a little lower and I did feel like I had more hours in the day.

My body didn’t change – believe me I checked, I checked every day from all angles.  My body looked exactly the same, every single day, throughout the entire week. It looked just as it did the previous week when I was training.  There was not one day I woke up and thought, my abs have disappeared, I’ve lost a bit of muscle or I look fluffier than normal.

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In black was the day before I took my rest week.  In the pink is immediately after my rest week.
The cons

It was a slippery slope – I had intended to take the week, not as rest week, but as a LISS and rehabilitation week.  I planned to do lots of low intensity cardio, lots of yoga and lots of stretching. Well I did yoga once, and stretched twice. Then the rest of it turned into a big old ‘rest and sack it all off’ week.

The domino effect – once the workouts were out of the window, it didn’t take long for the water goals to be forgotten, the sugar and fat goals to go and then, as you can imagine, all my healthy habits seemed to fall by the wayside one at a time. Clean eating, turned into healthy eating, which turned into treating, which turned in to cheating.  I ate more treat meals, sweets, puddings, cakes than I did even on holiday.  I didn’t binge from the get go, it just got progressively worse the further I got out of routine.

I was moody – I’m not even kidding, by the weekend James was asking me what the bloody hell was wrong with me. I’m normally a super positive, happy, sunny person and while I wasn’t screaming the house down in fits of rage I was, snappier and well cloudier than normal.  I felt less energised and more grumpy about things that normally wouldn’t phase me and looking back I’m sure it’s because I was having endorphin/post workout high withdrawal.  Working out is a natural mood elevator and one that I’ve had for 60 weeks now, so clearly I felt a change without those happy hormones flooding my body.

I had nothing to talk about – I watched you all smashing your workouts and posting your sweaty selfies and I had nothing.  Nothing to say, nothing to contribute, no real good reason to wear activewear.  So life felt pretty weird for a week.

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me enjoying my rest week experimenting with normal clothes for once haha!
What I learned from this moody sleepy lazy week.

That despite the cons (grumpiness) I loved this week – It was refreshing, it was indulgent, it shook me up a bit, I got some great naps.  I ate some pretty amazing food (sugar).  I switched off from fitness, from blogging about fitness, from talking about fitness. I recuperated and  I feel like I hurt a bit less in all the places I didn’t know I was hurting.

To have no fear  – That getting back into your groove after you’ve turned your back on the whole shabang was easy.  I welcomed it, I looked forward to it.  No habits had be ruined, no progress had been lost, there was no making up for anything.   Everything was exactly as I had left it and stepping back in to my trainers felt as normal, as natural and as necessary as it was before.

I’m more than my schedule – That I do have a life that I love beyond fitness, clean eating and instagramming my workout outfits but ultimately life is just even better when I have those things too.

Going forward I definitely intend to include more recovery in to my schedule at more regular intervals.   Maybe some time off after every round ( so every 3 months).  It might not always be a full week but maybe 3 or 4 days every 12 weeks is a good balance, we’ll see. 

Anyway, I hope this reassures some of you that rest is important, its necessary, its beneficial and that when it comes to back-tracking or losing progress…  one week off is not going to derail any of your hard work.  It takes at least 3-4 weeks of total inactivity for your muscles to start breaking down, so relax and nourish your body with a well deserved rest.  You earned it and your body will thank you for it. 

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One thought on “The truth about taking a rest week.

  1. I completely agree with you on how for some reason every time I get sick or decided to rest (no matter if it’s a day or a week) I completely throw everything else about my routine out the window as well.. but then I eventually get back to my awesome routine and realize. Its okay to rest and listen to my body! Great Post!

    Like

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