Why Rest is Important and How to Integrate It

I can’t tell you how often I hear people say they work out every day. This can be just fine as long as you don’t work the same muscles back to back or overdo your cardio.

For example, I talked to a woman whose goal was to burn calories. Obviously she would be watching her calorie intake, and her weekly workout schedule looked like this: weights circuit, intervals, cardio, rest, repeat.

Three intense days of cardio and lower body work and only one day of rest could result in overtraining, which can lead to a training plateau and/or overuse injuries with the ankles, knees, or back. More is not always better when it comes to working out. Your body needs a chance to heal and rest or you will find yourself in worse shape, not better.

A better solution would be to space out the workouts to include two to three days a week of full-body strength training alternating with two to three days of cardio. Strength training is essential because it burns calories during and after working out, plus muscle also burn calories. The key is to rest between the weights/cardio days. The schedule could look like this:

Day 1: Cardio

Day 2: Full-body weights (optional: circuit training)

Day 3: Rest (yoga, walking)

Day 4: Full-body weights

Day 5: Cardio

Day 6: Full-body weights (optional: circuit training)

Day 7: Rest (after three days of working out, it’s ok to do nothing!)

If you find yoga to be a strenuous muscular workout, you may need to integrate it on cardio days instead of back to back with weights days.

Circuit weight training increases the intensity of a workout and can provide additional calorie burning opportunities.

Another option, depending on your goals, would be to split two weight training days into upper and lower body instead of full body (for example, upper body on day 2; lower body on day 6).

Your schedule will depend on your goals and your schedule. If you rest sufficiently during your workout week, you’ll find not only better results, but avoid overuse injuries. It’s worth it to find the optimal schedule for you.

6 thoughts on “Why Rest is Important and How to Integrate It

  1. Great advice. I’ve seen people who work out like maniacs with no rest and no results. My thought is the mirror and your own body should be your best friends when working out.

    Look at yourself objectively – are you making progress? If not then you need to change things up. And, if your body is telling you it needs a break then it is best to listen to it. I think rest and listening to your body is important for everyone but especially important for the older athlete. Sometimes one day of rest may just not be enough especially after a race or other competition.


  2. I love this and agree 150%! I used to go hard-hard-hard thinking that was the best way to go. I’ve recently slowed it down and added rest days and even though I’m technically doing less than I used to, I am stronger, fitter and more defined than before. Less really can be more. And seriously…who doesn’t love a good rest day šŸ™‚


  3. Yes, completely agree! I love to workout but I do take at least one rest day a week, although it is not always a complete rest day. I may use that day to go for a walk, do some yoga or stretching, or do a family activity like a bike ride or hike. I too used to go hard all the time but noticed that if I gave myself that rest day, felt so much stronger and fit the next time I worked out. Working hard continually breaks the muscles down and doesn’t allow them to build back up again. I still find myself getting into the habit of training hard and not resting enough from time to time and I have to step back and remind myself of this principle.


  4. There are several philosophical dynamics working here, not the least of which is that the car with the most, and the hardest miles on it will likely go to the junkyard first.

    That said, for many, myself included, intense exercise is only partly about looking and feeling good. For many, it’s also about feeling high — mentally high. My intense daily exercise puts me in a better state. I have said many times that my StepMill and squat rack have saved more than a few lives… That is, it’s a very good cure for depression, and often times depression does not have rest day — at least not mine.

    I live in a constant state of over-training, and most of the time I’m okay with that. I get an emotional and psychological trade off that is more important to me than energy, or perfect legs — it’s called Stability. I live with Cyclothymia (rapid cycling bipolar disorder). My highs are not as high, and my lows are not as low, but when I am low, I count on my intense strength training and/or intense cardio to lead me out of it. And if all of this wears me out too soon, so be it.

    Each morning I have but one goal; to simply win the day.


    • Kris: šŸ™‚ You’re not one who I see as resting too much, or even a little too much.

      Brock: Agreed, excellent advice.

      Stephanie: Good job!! I’m glad you’re seeing results – wooo! And SO nice to see you here ā¤

      Jeannie: Very nice that you figured it out for yourself. I also noticed that I was too tired to have a decent workout when I didn't rest. Thereby defeating the entire purpose of working out!

      Roy: It's certainly a good point that exercise feeds us mentally, myself included. I used to loathe rest days and actually feel a bit depressed on those days. We each have to find that balance that makes us go. You're well-conditioned after many years of working out, and I imagine if you started having injuries you'd pay attention to that. I found that if I didn't rest I ended up with aches and pains, and it wasn't worth it. If you don't have aches, maybe you're ignoring the pain ;). It's cool that exercise has been able to keep you in the zone, aches or not.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s