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How many rest days a week are right for you? Dan has the answers

Everyone trains differently, so everyone needs to rest differently. Coach Dan gives us the lowdown on how many rest days are right for you.
Dan Ward

Exercise is the foundation of a healthy life. But if you want to see real results, only working out every now and then probably won’t do the trick.

Another Round embodies ambition and personal aspiration. It's you versus you, pushing a little bit further each time to get closer to your goals. You can always do one more rep, one more set, one day at a time. You can always go another round.

With all of that said though, rest days are just as important as training days in your programme.

They play a massively important role in recovery, and give your muscles, bones, and joints the time they need to repair and get stronger.

We’ve all felt the aches and pains that come after a big push at the gym. They mean you’re doing something right, but ignoring them and getting back in action before you’re ready could set your progress back a lot further than you might think. 

Part of the challenge with rest days is that everybody is different. If you’re a seasoned gym goer, then your body is going to be a lot more used to working out regularly than if you’re just easing in after a few years off. 

So let’s take a closer look at how many rest days a week is a healthy balance. Starting with what’s happening behind the scenes when you feel a little sore. 

DOMS (Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness) and why it happens

The muscle pain we experience after a workout (your trainer probably calls it DOMS) is something we're all familiar with, but do we really understand what it means? And how to properly manage it so we can get the most out of our workouts?

DOMS normally sets in between 24 and 72 hours after a workout, and it comes from the inflammation that happens whenever you put more strain on a muscle than it’s used to. 

It’s really important to remember that DOMS is not an injury. Yes, it can be extremely uncomfortable, especially for beginners or after a long layoff, but it’s nothing to worry about and gets better with consistency in training.

If the pain is a bit too much to handle, take a rest day. That’s what they’re for – to give your body a chance to catch up and reset before going harder and for longer next time. 

The right split: deciding on how many rest days a week

Any coach worth their salt will help you work out a training plan that incorporates rest days, even if you beg them to give you seven days a week of training (never a good approach).

If you’re really keen on getting to the gym as much as possible, your plan shouldn’t be hammering the same muscle group intensively, back to back, every day.

Full body sessions are great but you should still vary the big focus areas from session to session if you’re training 4+ times per week.

Or you can split your training into muscle areas, push/pull movements, or upper/lower splits.

This means that if you’re really feeling the DOMS in your arms or abdomen, you can focus on your legs instead. Or switch away from strength training to cardio. 

Make time for de-load weeks

Even if you’re used to being active day in and day out, it’s still important to give your body the time and space it needs to reset. 

Training for hugely extended periods of time without any breaks is a recipe for injury and fatigue, so instead of asking ‘how many rest days can I get away with skipping’, think about squeezing in a de-load week every two to three months. 

That doesn’t have to mean no training at all. But ease up on the intensity for a few days to give your central nervous system a chance to catch up.

You could also try ‘active recovery’, which is any sort of lighter-load training like swimming or yoga. That’ll keep the blood flowing and maintain your momentum while also giving you a few days away from more intense strain. 

Don’t sleep on total rest days

Even if you’re used to incorporating active recovery sessions on your rest days, there are still going to be days where a total rest is the best thing for you. And those days are a bit more common than you might think. Feeling sick? Rest. Pulled a muscle? Rest. Dealing with the hangover from hell the day after your work Christmas party? Rest. 

We don’t have to be always on, all the time. There are plenty of situations where the very best thing we can do for our bodies is take a break.

Plus, the great thing about those situations is that your body tells you when it needs them. There’s a big difference between really not being up for a workout and just not feeling motivated. You’ll know which is which, so listen to what your body is saying. 

If in doubt, chat to your coach

Whenever we’re reaching for a goal and deep into the swing of a routine, it can be hard to break out and stop. Even if it’s the smarter choice. That’s where an experienced coach can help, managing your load so that you’re resting at the right time. 

Myself, Max, Tash, Sam and the rest of the Another Round team all have plenty of experience kicking back when the time is right. So if you’re wondering how many rest days a week to schedule in, talk to us.

We’ll help you build a schedule that lets you take a break every now and then – all in a way that brings you closer to your goals.

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