Rest Days and Why You Need Them


Rest days are often overlooked. It’s a common misconception in fitness that more is always better, in that the more you do, the more you’ll get out. This is not the truth. This article will present the science of rest days, why you need them, some of the principles you can follow for active rest days, as well as some ideas for your next rest day.

The Science of Rest

The formula is simple: Stress + Rest = Growth. The purpose of your workouts isn’t just to exert yourself, but create a form of stress which challenges your body. When paired with adequate rest, your body adapts to this stress by repairing muscle tissue and strengthening itself for challenges and stress in the future. The recovery phase is instrumental for injury avoidance and conducive to continuous improvement.

Physical and Mental Recovery

Your rest days are not just about recovering physically, but they’re also key for mental recovery. Regular training demands a lot of mental focus from you, which over time without proper rest, can lead to mental fatigue, boredem and disengagement from your workouts. Here are some of the issues that may arise from insufficient rest:

  • Mental Burnout: Consistently training without a rest may lead to a lack of motivation. This links to physical burnout, as they often come hand in hand.
  • Injury or Chronic Fatigue: Overworking the body can increase your chance of injury, and may lead to chronic fatigue which’ll cause suboptimal performance in your workouts. 
  • Loss of Performance & Muscle Loss: Without rest, your body cannot repair itself. This can lead to deteriorated performance and sometimes even muscle breakdown. The equation isn’t more work = more gains. 
  • Poor Sleep & Hormonal Imbalances: Overtraining may disrupt your sleeping patterns and can also cause hormonal imbalances, which impact everything from your mood to metabolic rate. 

Active Rest Day Principles

Having a rest day doesn’t necessarily mean that you’re doing nothing. Active rest days where you reduce your overall strain can be beneficial; keeping the body moving with minimal intensity. The key to an active rest day is doing something that is low intensity that you enjoy. Doing this can help promote your recovery for future training sessions. Here are some of our guidelines for an active rest day.

  • Keep it light: You should choose activities which are less intense than your regular workouts. You want to move, without pushing your heart rate into higher zones. 
  • Don’t worry about metrics: You may want to leave your fitness wearable trackers at home. Don’t worry about the metrics and focus on taking some time to enjoy the activity rather than thinking about intensity or the number of calories you’ve burned. 
  • Choose Activities that you enjoy: Use the rest day to do something active that you enjoy. You might want to just go for a walk in nature or have an easy swim or bike ride. Your goal is to feel refreshed in both your body and mind. 

Rest Day Ideas

Here are some of our suggestions for things you might want to do on your rest day:

Be Active

  • Go for a walk in a park or along a trail.
  • Engage in water activities like paddleboarding, surfing or wakeboarding.
  • Play some light games such as playing frisbee, padel or football.
  • Spend time with your family or kids outside 

Be Recovery Focused

  • Go for a massage to relieve muscle tightness or injuries.
  • Try some yoga, stretching or mobility exercises to help your body recover
  • Have a go at meditating or journaling to clear your mind and reduce stress and mental fatigue.

Be Practical

  • You may want to use the time to catch up on household tasks or run errands.
  • You can also use the time to meal prep to help yourself stay on track with your diet without having to rush or make time elsewhere.

When do you need a rest day?

You should listen to your body and recognise times when you should slow down and take a break. Self regulation and taking a Thinking Athlete approach to your training (LINK) can help you understand why and when you’re feeling overly tired, sore or unmotivated, all which are signs that you need a break and rest day.


Rest days are not a sign of weakness or laziness, and we must remove this self limiting belief from our ideas. Taking a rest day provides your body and mind with the time necessary to recover, adapt and ultimately grow stronger. By incorporating rest days where needed, you can ensure more sustainable training and more consistent results, which’ll improve your performance in the long term. If you’re looking to learn more, or if you’re looking for the path to becoming a personal trainer, be sure to take a look at our level 3 personal trainer course; the gold standard in modern coaching and training.