You’re putting in the work at the gym, but aren’t seeing all of the results you hope for. What gives? Chances are, you’re neglecting one of the most important tenets of exercise: recovery. Not to be confused with apathy, there are very good reasons why rest days and recovery should not be overlooked. Here are five of them:

  1. To allow your muscles to repair. You read that right. When participating in fitness, you are creating small tears in your muscles and rest days allow protein to synthesize in those muscles to repair them, which also allows them to grow.
  1. To get quality sleep. Your body does its most repair magic while you are sleeping. Most athletes need between seven to 10 hours to adequately recover. Everyone has heard this before, but we will take the opportunity to reiterate it anyway: put your screens down one to two hours before bed. Blue light and sleep do not mix, therefore, you are not doing yourself any favors scrolling through Instagram while laying in bed before you go to sleep.
  1. To allow your muscles to relax. We can say from first-hand experience that mobilizing can be a mundane activity, but its necessary. Taking the time to stretch and foam roll helps your muscles relax and it’s a great opportunity to catch up on your favorite podcasts or TV show. Multi-tasking for the win!
  1. To move your body in other ways. Just because it’s a rest day, doesn’t mean that you have to spend the day on couch. However, sometimes that’s just what the doctor ordered. If you are feeling anxious to get some movement in, take the opportunity to get some sunshine by taking a walk around your block, going on a bike ride, or jump on a machine like a rower for a nice easy row. You may hear this type of work referred to as “non-exercise movement” which is also helpful to reset throughout your day (especially if you have a sedentary job).
  1. To refill your mental capacity. Exercise takes a toll on your body which is generally easy to confirm by how your body feels, but what most people don’t take into consideration is the impact that rigorous training can also have on your mental health. There are a whole lot of positives that fitness provides, but sometimes you just need to take a day and let your brain rest, too.

Committing to recovery is essential as an athlete, but also as a person interested in general fitness. Are you allowing your body to recover?