Importance of Rest Days in 2019 (and how to plan the RIGHT way!)

If you work in the fitness industry, we don’t need to tell you how many times clients and beginners ask about the importance of rest days.

And that’s fine. Knowledge is power after all…

Unfortunately, often, gym-goers are asking this question for all the wrong reasons.

They’re not asking about the importance of rest days to find out how it will benefit their training. No, they’re asking if they need to take a rest day.

Or, in other words, why they can’t just skip it all together.

Sometimes, this question is difficult to answer on the spot…but not anymore!

After reading this article, you’ll know all about the importance of rest days for personal trainers, the importance of rest days for clients, and how to effectively design a programme that balances intensity, scalability, and rest.

Importance of Rest Days for Personal Trainers

Now, if your reading this article as a client you may think that this section might not much interest you.

After all, why should it be your job to know what your personal trainer is up to, and by extension, the importance of rest days from their perspective.

But wait just one moment.

If you know why your personal trainer values rest days so much, you can improve your own approach to training and buy into the programme that they have designed for you.

This is a win-win for all parties: you will be happy and healthy, your trainer will be genuinely relieved that they don’t have to convince you to take a day off, and it means you can quickly progress to a better and more complex programme of training.

Overtraining Syndrome: A Trainer’s Worst Nightmare

Has your trainer every mumbled a little thing called OTS when you suggest that you could be spending more hours in the gym?

Yep, that stands for Overtraining Syndrome. And yep, they aren’t making it up.

When you work out the right way, focusing on specific areas of the body and scaling up your intensity, your muscles will begin to tear.

Not in a huge, scary way that’s going to injure you permanently…

Not at all, in fact.

When your body does this, it paves the way for muscle growth and adaption to external stimuli (or, in other words, you working out in the gym more, and lifting heavier weights).

The problem is, if you don’t factor in rest days, these tiny tears which are actually a good thing, can turn into something particularly nasty.

We’re talking significant muscle tears, ligament damage, and just about everything else you don’t want to have to be dealing with in the middle of your training programme.

Importance of rest days - Stat

And, when it comes to the importance of rest days for personal trainers, it’s not just the physical side of things that concerns them.

Now, obviously, if you’re a client and you’re injured, this will significantly affect a PTs earnings that month.

But, barring any serious injury, eventually things should return to normal.

Now, what happens if you don’t give yourself any time to rest mentally, and you become completely alienated from your trainer and training regime?

See, rest days are not only important to allow for muscle repair and growth, but they also give you time away from the gym.

Personal trainers recognise that you can’t dedicate your whole life to fitness, so they factor in these rest days to allow you the flexibility to live your life and enjoy more social activities in between your 9-5 job and training.

What makes a good personal trainer?... Balance

A lot of clients – and we mean a lot – ask the question whether they are getting their money’s worth out of their trainer.

Unfortunately, this causes them to compare hours to other clients.This is a HUGE no-no in the industry, and completely goes against the logic behind the importance of rest days.

If your PT has their qualifications, has asked for your goals and ambitions, and then has carefully planned you a programme of exercise to achieve those goals in a sustainable and realistic timescale, why on earth would you ask a friend what their trainer is doing for them.

No two clients are comparable, and when you ask the question why your neighbour is getting more hours with their trainer, your likely to get a stiff response.

See, the truth to good personal training isn’t working hard (though, undoubtedly all successful trainers do that), but working smart.

Why would a trainer spend hours every day in the gym with their clients, when certain tricks of the trade can achieve the same – if not better – results in a smarter, less time intensive, and more balanced way?

Importance of rest days - Working Smart

The Importance of Rest Days…Trainers need rest too!

Now, we’re going to say something here that you might not hear that often from your personal trainer.

Your training isn’t all about you.

Wait, what?

Yep, you heard. Training with a PT is like having a conversation: it’s a two way exchange, and both parties must be active participants in order for it to mean anything.

See, the importance of rest days extends far beyond your body’s needs. Didn’t you ever consider that your trainer might need a rest too?

Joking aside, let’s think about this logically.

It’s not just you that your PT will be training. There’ll be another eight, nine, ten, maybe even as many as fifteen clients on their books, all vying for attention!

In order to realistically balance this workload, and ensure that everyone is safe and trained to the maximum of their potential, rest days aren’t only inevitable, they’re essential.

Let’s get one thing clear, a trainer wants one thing and one thing only: for you to fall in love with fitness, and transform your lifestyle.

Now, you may be sat there thinking: if I’m one of many clients, surely my trainer doesn’t care.

Actually, it’s the opposite. A trainer with many clients is exactly what you want, and you should actively seek out a popular and busy trainer at all costs!

Importance of rest days - Busy trainers

So, when your trainer suggests rest days in between your training programme, you’d be well advised to listen.

After all, it’s for everyone’s benefit!

Importance of Rest Days for Clients

Are you interested in the importance of rest days from a client’s perspective, rather than from your trainer’s?

Well, have we got news for you!

While it should be obvious that your personal trainer always has your best interests at hand, it’s very easy to get lost in the details and start questioning the authority of your PT.

By learning how your PT will use rest days to your advantage, you’ll soon begin to see exactly how they intend to improve your fitness in the long-term.

How your PT will use rest days to improve your fitness?

Pretty important question, especially when we’re talking about the importance of rest days, right?

See, in general, your personal trainer is going to use rest days in three main ways:

Importance of rest days - Improving clients

As is clear, rest days aren’t all about rest (as weird as that may sound).

In fact, they can be used tactically in a variety of ways in order to give you the upper hand when it comes to achieving your long-term fitness goals.

And, as we’re about to find out, you don’t have to be completely dormant when you’re on your rest day.

In fact, the importance of rest days simply means taking time out of your intense training schedule. But if you’re the kind of personality who always has to be active, then taking whole days off exercise may not necessarily help.

As the above shows, rest days can be used in a variety of ways, and as a client, it is your responsibility to feedback to your trainer in an honest and sensible way, so they can make the most out of them in your training routine.

What is active rest?  

In the above section we broached the idea of staying active, even on a rest day.

Now, we’d like to stress, this should not be recommended for everyone.

If your trainer tells you to rest up and come back in a couple of days, you should follow their advice to the letter.

If, however, you’re training for a high intensity event – think marathons or triathlons, etc. – and you want to keep your fitness up, even on a scheduled rest day, then that isn’t out of the question.

In fact, more and more trainers are buying into what is called active rest.

Active rest, let’s be honest, kind of does what it says on the tin: you’re doing something so you don’t feel like a couch potato, but at an intensity that doesn’t quite qualify as a normal workout.

Considering both being active, and resting, is important in the equation too.

Setting a new personal best 10km run and doing strength training marginally below your usual weight is NOT active rest.

Twenty-five minutes gentle cycling, however, is active rest.

Get the idea?

Now, before you go sprinting off to the gym on your rest day, there’s one final factor to consider…

Choice of exercise.

See, things like running and strength training are high impact, and are the exact opposite of what your body needs on a rest day.

You need to choose an exercise you are comfortable with, and that enacts a low amount of stress on your body.

Which is why we suggest…

Importance of rest days - Swimming

Nutrition must fill the gap that training leaves

You can’t – and we can’t stress this enough – fill the gaps of your rest days by eating rubbish.

Whether it’s active rest, or giving your body the time to recuperate, one thing will always remain the same when it comes to the importance of rest days…

That is, your nutrition needs to be consistent and measured in order for you to get any benefit out of your training programme.

Did you know that protein contains essential amino acids needed for muscle repair and growth?

And that (disbarring ketogenic diets, which, by the way, we don’t suggest while on intense training programmes), carbohydrate is most easily transformed into glucose by the body, which gives you an instant energy boost when it comes to your training?

Surely then, you should be investing just as much time in your nutrition planning, as you should your workout regime?

Well, you’d be surprised as to how many people tend to ignore their diet and continue as they have always eaten.

If you suspect you may currently fall into that camp, check out our top nutrition tips to get your training back on track.

Importance of rest days - Nutrition Tips

How to design a programme

Obviously, given everything we’ve said in this article about the importance of rest days, we’re not going to draw up a catch-all template and claim it to be some miracle training programme that will work for all readers.

In fact, if any website is claiming to do that, close the browser immediately and forget everything they are trying to tell you.

Instead, we thought it might be a nice idea to give you the building blocks of a good training programme, so you can get started on your fitness journey straight away.

Now, obviously, this isn’t going to match the kind of programme you’d receive off a personal trainer…

The template will, however, use much of the same logic, and draw upon the years of experience from our expert tutors and trainers here at OriGym.

Importance of rest days - The Building Blocks

Before you go!

The importance of rest days will always be a contentious topic when it comes to personal training.

Got some thoughts?

Join the discussion on Facebook and Twitter and let us know your experience when it comes to rest days, active rest, and how you optimise your nutrition to supplement gains made in the gym!

Fancy taking your passion for training into a new career? We'd love to talk! Check out our Level 3 Personal Training qualification or download our free prospectus to see what you could be learning! 

Written by George Aird

Fitness Professional & Marketer

George Aird is a content writer and marketer with specialist knowledge of health and fitness, online marketing, and start-up businesses. In his spare time, he is a keen climber, and a (reluctant) runner.