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Overtraining – When should you take rest days?

Guest Blog by Hayley Madigan

The more our body and mind gets used to daily training, the more we revel in the endorphin high and muscle building power of keeping fit. Although the benefits of exercise far out way any of the negatives. We sometimes over compensate on the frequency of our training schedule. This can cause undesirable effects on our bodies’. Overtraining can lead to particularly unwelcomed injuries, whole body fatigue and insomnia. Like me, most of us have goals to reach in and out of the gym. Sometimes we forget that recovery and rest is just as important in achieving any fitness related aspirations.




When should I take a rest day?

Your fitness goals will dictate when and how often you should rest. If you are yearning for hypertrophy and the majority of your training is based around weight lifting then you should have at least one rest day every three days. This will enable your muscles the chance to grow and repair stronger leading to better hypertrophy. Our muscles tear when we load them with resistance (i.e. weight training). And they only grow when they are at rest and have sufficient fuel to do so (i.e. good nutrition and rest days). Therefore, if you’re smashing out the weights every day with limited rest days then this may be why you are plateauing. Or even not seeing as many changes as you think you deserve.

If you are an endurance type individual and your training is more cardio based, then your rest days can be less frequent and can often take the form of active rest. Cardiovascular adaptations on the body happen gradually with regular training and as your body gets used to physical activity your body will not need as much rest as it used to when you first starting exercising. If you are a beginner, then listen to your body. Know when you need to recover by accessing how much your muscles ache (how bad are your DOMS?) and how tired you may be. There is a fine line between thinking you are tired and actually being physically too tired to train. Sometimes a good run can wake you up and give you the energy that you striving for pre exercise.

As your body adapts to your training, you won’t need to take as many rest days as you did as a beginner. And often your recovery days can be in the form of active rest days. This refers to a lighter workout or less physically demanding exercise session. It allows the blood to circulate the body and start to repair the muscles that are in need of recovery. It also means that the exercise is not harsh enough on the body to cause even more damage. The important thing to remember here is listen to your body, try to access whether you’re physically drained or just in need of a strong coffee, either way rest days are imperative to your training programme and should be scheduled in habitually.


Do I still eat the same amount of calories on rest days?

Depending on your goals, will depend on your calorie split however don’t be scared to actually eat more on your rest days. Some individuals even use rest days to have a controlled re-feed. These are used to top up their glycogen stores and rev up their fat burning hormones (leptin and ghrelin). Many people believe that they need to decrease calories on rest days as they are not burning as many calories due to less activity. However, considering this, keep in mind that your body has made it clear to you that it deserves a rest day so starving it of energy and food is not going to help it recover. Therefore, keeping your calories the same or even increasingly them slightly will aid your body’s recovery process and help your muscles recoup in a shorter amount of time.

Points to remember:

  • Listen to your body it’s extremely smart in knowing what it needs
  • Plan rest days to suit your life outside of the gym so you don’t feel guilty from resting.
  • Remember rest allows your muscles to GROW and REPAIR
  • Learn that rest is just as important for your mind as well as your body, this helps with motivation levels.
  • Eat to recover, think about your nutrition as you owe your body nutritiously good food to allow it to repair stronger – Wholesome starchy carbohydrates, high protein sources and unsaturated fats will all help speed up recovery.


This post was written by Hayley Madigan, co-founder of . Hayley is a WNBF PRO Natural Bodybuilder and Physical Education Secondary School Teacher. You can follow my journey to the Worlds stage in November on my Instagram @tmchayley


UKDFBA Bikini UK Champion 2015

WNBF Overall Bikini World Champion 2015