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Are You Resting Enough?

  • 2.07.2020

Are You Resting Enough?
Take a look at the question in the title again. If you sincerely try to answer it, chances are pretty good that the answer is: No. Often, this is motivated by necessity and/or a well-intentioned to desire to get things done. The truth is, though, that forcing yourself to skip sleep or “power-through” when you should be resting is incredibly counterproductive. In fact, the practice could even be dangerous.

To be clear, however, the topic of “rest” includes more than just sleep. For exercisers and athletes, there is also concern over giving yourself enough time between workouts to fully recover. Let’s take a brief look at this – generally broad – topic to see how you can use rest as a tool to improve both your health and performance.

Sleep

Obviously, the first thing people think of in a discussion on rest is sleep. And this is a logical connection. Sleep is the primary form of recovery from the day’s activities for both your body and brain. Interestingly, we aren’t entirely sure why sleep is so important or even exactly what is happening while we’re asleep. But scientists have uncovered a few useful details.

Throughout the day, your brain takes in a huge quantity of information about the world around you. This all needs to be processed and stored – which happens each night when you sleep. But this isn’t just about packing away information. Physical connections in your brain – pathways that carry information and influence mental performance – are built, repaired, and reinforced while you sleep. This explains why, in numerous studies, just small degrees of sleep deprivation – missing only a few hours each night – has been shown to greatly reduce cognitive performance.

But the brain isn’t just taking care of itself during the night. That command center is responsible for directing recovery work throughout your entire body. During the day, your body is exposed to pollutants, allergens, and possibly infectious foreign organisms that all need to be dealt with. We’ll talk about the details more in the next section, but your body also has to recover from exercise or any other activity that you took part in that day.

Clearly, a lot happens while you’re sleeping. According to the National Sleep Foundation, seven to nine hours of sleep each night is enough for most adults. It may take some experimentation, though, to figure out exactly what you need.

Rest Days

Included in “rest,” are rest days, as well. These are days that you take off from strenuous activity or workouts. This might seem counter-intuitive or even frustrating if you’re working toward specific goals, but it’s important to realize that fitness does not improve during workouts; it improves while you’re resting.

When you exercise, your muscles are actually damaged at the cellular level. Your brain interpretes this as a stressful, even dangerous, event. In response, the muscles are not only repaired, but they are improved so that you can be better prepared to handle the next problem. This can only happen if your muscles are given a chance to recover.

It’s incredibly important, then, to not only get enough sleep each night but to make sure that you take off a few days during the week to allow your muscles to recover. The exact number of rest days you take will depend on your fitness level and goals but at least one day each week is recommended. Many experienced athletes will periodically take a full week – or even two – off to allow for a thorough recovery. Granted, the thought of skipping your workouts for this long might seem terrifying but you likely will not lose any of your performance ability in this short time. In fact, many find that they perform better after this type of extended rest.

Are You Resting Enough?

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© The Natural Way: Health & BeautyMaira Gall