This article originally appeared in Issue 6 of Mountain Bike for Her.
When it comes to skipping rest days, I am one of the biggest offenders out there. Either because I want to fit in that extra ride or maybe I’ll do an easy set at the gym. Sometimes I consider trail building because I tell myself that it’s sort of like resting But the truth is we all need to take genuine rest days.
As someone who is always on the go and manages to burn myself out through excessive training, I thought this would be an important topic to talk about. Here are a few reasons why resting is just as important as being active.
It makes you stronger Rest makes you stronger, literally! Rest allows the muscles you have broken down to recover and heal. Working out hard causes tiny micro tears in your muscles (that would be why they hurt) As these tears heal, the muscles becomes stronger. In order for this to happen, you have to let the muscles rest as well as provide good nutrition.
Injury prevention Resting is also one of the best ways to prevent “training injuries”.. If you feel tired at the start of your workout, you aren’t being as attentive and tuned into your body as you should be. I learned a little mental trick from my doctor years ago: Before every workout / bike ride / training session, do an internal assessment. Review things like, how do I feel today, does anything hurt, did I sleep well last night, is there anything affecting me emotionally right now, where in my exercise cycle am I (i.e., day 9 of riding my bike v.s. I just had 3 rest days). Based on my internal answers, I then adjust my activities for the day.
As you warm up for exercise, continue to assess: do I have any nagging pains, is it harder than normal to warm up, etc.. Listen to what your body tells you and take heed! In all honesty, these assessments have helped me avoid a fair number of injuries.
You feel exhausted all the time Finding yourself sleeping more while still feeling exhausted or having trouble sleeping are both signs that you are not resting enough. When you work out or ride your bike, you should be getting that post-exercise stoke. You know the one...where you feel like you could do more and go harder (we’ll exclude marathon length rides and races from this list). If just thinking about doing that workout this afternoon is already exhausting you, maybe it’s time to rest!
Burnout and dare I say it - overtraining I try not to use the word “overtraining” because for about 99% of people overtraining is not the problem. The problem is scheduling the necessary amount of rest into your program. We all have a limited amount of time, energy, and physical reserve. f we use it all while training and riding, we burn out on the things we once loved doing and got excited about.
If you`re anything like me, you`ll want to spend as much time and energy as possible riding your bike this summer.. But you really can have too much of a good thing. In a nutshell, I advise you to “train smarter, not longer”. During the summer, ride hard and ride lots, but make sure to listen to your body. Use the tips I’ve given above and take that downtime. It will guarantee you a healthier, more enjoyable, and (hopefully) injury-free summer.