Just like hard training sessions and a nutritious diet, adequate rest is an absolutely essential part of any regimen. Without rest, your body will not be able to repair the stresses of training or make adaptations to get stronger.
Your total rest time can be considered a combination of sleep plus time spent not training or exercising. Some components of rest include sleep quality and duration, recovery time between training sessions, and rest days.
Sleep is undeniably the most crucial component of rest time. Adequate sleep is essential for both physical health and brain health. During sleep periods, your body makes adaptations, repairs, and balances hormone levels and metabolic processes. In addition, your brain requires full sleep cycles to maintain neurological functions responsible for speed, accuracy, and reaction time. Although specific sleep needs will vary depending on each person’s lifestyle, genetics, and workout type, most people should aim to get at least 7 or 8 hours of sleep per night, while elite athletes may require 9 or more hours of sleep to maintain performance.
If you are engaging in many hours of intense training per day, or participating in twice-a-day training sessions, consider spacing them out when possible to allow for a few hours of recovery time between hard pushes. For example, an MMA athlete preparing for a fight might complete a strength & conditioning session in the morning, attend a wrestling practice in the afternoon, and spar with teammates in the evening. Including a few hours of non-training time between each session helps the body replenish glycogen stores, restore equilibrium to the central nervous system, and reduce the risk of injury.
Sometimes, you just need a day off. Rest days are a critical part of any training regimen, as they allow your body to make necessary adaptations, grow muscles, and restore balance. Depending on the sport and level of training, some athletes take one or two complete rest days per week, while others use their rest days to do strictly restorative or low-impact exercise such as walking, swimming, or yoga. Remember, rest days aren’t just about laying on the couch all day – be intentional about how you’re spending your time off to get the maximum benefit of that well-deserved rest!