Lately I have been realizing that there is this huge fear within our community surrounding rest days. Rest days meaning, a “non-workout day”. I see too many of my close friends and clients fearful of taking a day, 2, or 3 off from the gym or their regular workout routine and this pains me because, I know exactly how they feel.
Just a few years ago, I was fearful of taking time off from the gym, too. I allowed myself 1 full day of rest from the gym per week and that was it. I worked out Monday through Saturday and Sunday was my only day of “rest”. I say rest in quotations because we all know I wasn’t actually resting, just because I didn’t go to the gym on Sunday’s didn’t mean I wasn’t walking for hours on end until my feet hurt…
I know many of you reading this right now can relate. The typical hitting-it-HARD-6-days-a-week in the gym is very common in the fitness world. Rest is not common, yet being fearful of rest is.
Years ago, the thought of working out less than 6 days a week caused me serious anxiety and feelings of discomfort, however, I did, eventually, cut back and eventually changed up my workout routine to working out 4 days a week, instead of 6.
This new schedule grew on me and I soon realized that 4 was kind of my “magic number” when it came to workouts. When I worked out 4 days a week, I felt like I had a lot more time to do things that I had to do (hello, studying! I was in university at this time), wanted to do (like spending time with friends), and I felt much less like the gym totally ruled my life. Working out 4 days a week was my new sweet spot.
When I worked out 6 days a week, I would catch myself avoiding making plans with my friends because I had to go to the gym or fit in a workout, but when I began to workout 4 days a week, it was just enough to keep me satisfied, but also allowed me to actually have a life.
Even though I was a fan of the number 4, those 3 days of rest still caused me issues – I felt anxious throughout the day, uncomfortable, and antsy. I felt like I had to be busy all of the time, but couldn’t be because it was a planned “rest day”.
It wasn’t until recently that I let go of this fear and this weird “need” to be busy on non-workout days. Today, I embrace these days and they are just like any other day to me. I no longer feel anxiety, discomfort, fear, or antsy-ness on these days and it feels so good to finally stop idolizing my workouts because there is truly so much more to life. We should workout and be active to enhance our lives rather than live to workout.
I want you to feel calm and content with rest days and not working out. I do not want you to feel uncomfortable on these days, so here are some reasons why you’re currently struggling and my tips for embracing rest once and for all!
7 Reasons You Fear Rest Days
1. You’re scared you’ll gain weight
Many people workout in pursuit of losing weight, hopefully this is not your mentality. Working out is far more enjoyable to do when you do it because you truly enjoy it, want to take care of yourself, and be the healthiest version of you possible. If you fear rest days because you are scared of what rest days will do to your figure, there is likely some deeper issues going on.
How to embrace rest: If what’s holding you back from taking time off from the gym is a fear of gaining weight, I suggest working on improving the relationship you have with yourself and your body. I teach my girls a lot about self love and help them overcome body image struggles in my one on one sessions.
2. You’re scared you’ll lose muscle
Have you ever heard that our muscles actually grow outside of the gym… when we rest! Yes, in order to build nice, strong muscles, you do need to put in the time and effort lifting heavy things, however, if you do not allow yourself time to rest, you will become overworked and overtrained, which can actually lead to halted progress or muscle wasting. Your muscles need time to recover.
How to embrace rest: Try it out for yourself! Take some time off from the gym or allow yourself a few more days of rest throughout the week and I am sure you will be pleasantly surprised. Not only will you notice that you have not lost muscle, but you’ll likely feel better physically, mentally, and emotionally – yes, overtraining can affect you emotionally in a negative way.
3. You’re scared you’ll lose strength
This is somewhat similar to those of you who fear losing muscle, you need time away from the gym to get stronger, too. If you deprive yourself of rest, your training will suffer. Just as your muscles need rest to grow, they also need rest to become stronger. Overtraining does nothing good for your strength gains.
How to embrace rest: Do what I do! Every 4 weeks, I do a “deload” week. We talk about deload weeks in this episode of The Nourished Podcast, but basically these weeks can be whatever you want them to be (other than heavy lifting!) During these deload weeks, I will either take the week off entirely from the gym and focus on walking and yoga or do resistance training workouts using bodyweight or significantly lighter weights than I use during my training programs.
4. You’re scared you’ll get lazy
Taking a few extra days off per week (or even a few weeks) will not cause you to be lazy and never want to go back to the gym again. If this is something you’re legitimately concerned about or know will happen if you do take time off from the gym, you’re likely not taking part in an activity you truly, deep down enjoy and love!
How to embrace rest: Make sure you’re doing a type of exercise that you absolutely love! For me, that’s weight lifting. For you, that may be running, yoga, pilates, Zumba, CrossFit, whatever it is, do that! If you’re doing something you love, you will be able to be consistent with it and not be concerned about “getting lazy” after a few days/weeks off.
5. You’re uncomfortable with just being by yourself
This is a big one and I think this is one of the main reasons people fear rest days – they don’t know how to simply just be. They don’t know what to do with themselves on rest days, they are uncomfortable with just being. Does this sound like you?
How to embrace rest: You have to learn to just be yourself, without anything else. So, you have to challenge yourself to take rest days, push through the uncomfortableness, and realize that you are you, even without the gym or workout. Discover other things you’re passionate about and pursue them! For me this is writing, I get a lot of my posts written on days I don’t go to the gym or workout. I also love to cook, so I often find myself at a grocery store, buying ingredients, for a new recipe I’ve dreamt up! I have a lot of experience pushing through this stage and coming out on the other, brighter side. If you need help, don’t hesitate to reach out.
6. You lift to eat
Yikes. I struggled with this mentality years ago, too. I would eat an appropriate amount of food to fuel my needs on the days I worked out, but when I took time off from the gym or had a rest day, I cut back on my food intake, which left my feeling tired, moody, depressed, anxious, and, well, terrible. Since I felt so terrible on rest days, it’s no wonder I feared them so much! But when I stopped fearing food itself and started to understand food better and view it as nourishment that my body needs to thrive (on a daily basis!), I was able to properly fuel myself on my rest days, feel energized throughout the day, free from emotional rollercoasters, and treat my body with the love and respect in deserves!
How to embrace rest: If you are struggling with this one because you have a fear of food, I highly recommend working with someone like myself to overcome these fears. If you are not struggling with a food fear, but eat less on rest days because you don’t think you “need” the fuel, think again, love. Our bodies require fuel and adequate calories on all of the days, not just workout days. Don’t think of days in terms of workout and non-workout days and eat accordingly. Instead, be intuitive at all times, rest day or not.
7. You think rest days = doing nothing
The was another big one for me and when I stopped thinking I had to do absolutely nothing on a rest day, my feelings of anxiety and discomfort vanished. Some people, my past self included, think on rest days they cannot do anything. Of course you could sit on your couch all day, watch Netflix, and never move unless it was to walk to the fridge, but that is not what a rest day means, necessarily. Treat a rest day just like any other day. Like I said, find something else you’re passionate about. If it involves strolling through the mall with your best friend, great! Unplanned movement is fine and healthy!
How to embrace rest: Stop labeling the day as a “rest day” and stop defining a rest day as a “I can’t do anything today” day. Once you remove these labels and definitions, you’ll feel a lot of freedom and happiness when it comes to rest days and time away from the gym.
When it comes down to it, you’re probably going to feel anxious at first when it comes to taking more time off from the gym or incorporating more rest days into your week. Change is sometimes (most of the time) uncomfortable, but I encourage you to apply these tips, push through the initial discomfort, and allow yourself to be free. The gym is not your everything.
If you need more support, feel free to contact me. I would love to help you through this.