The Most Important Day is …

No matter what your specific fitness goals may be, you need to focus on recovery.

Fat loss, lean muscle gain, health, and longevity — training plays an essential role in reaching each of these goals, but so does recovery, which is too often overlooked.
We all know that rest days are an important part of any fitness routine, yet for some of us, staying away from the gym can actually be one of the hardest things to do. This is why it’s important to understand the exact role that rest days play when trying to reach specific fitness goals as well as some signs to look out for that might suggest you’re overtraining.


We all workout for different reasons, but for the vast majority of people, our “why” for exercising can be categorized into some combination of:

We’re training to look a certain way, which means we’re training to either build lean muscle or burn off excess body fat.

We’re training for long-term health and longevity.

We’re training for performance and sport.

Regardless of which of these categories you fall into, rest days (or recovery) are crucial because, in order to make progress towards any of these goals, you need to create adaptations in the body. That adaptation does not happen when you exercise.

Exercise is the stressor that creates the opportunity for favorable adaptations like muscle gain, fat loss, better cardiovascular resilience, or higher work capacity. But those adaptations are not happening during your actual workouts.

The real magic happens in between your workouts while you’re recovering.

Say, for example, that your goal is to put on some lean muscle mass. That doesn’t actually happen while you rep out sets on the bench press. All those reps are doing is damaging your muscle, creating inflammation, and releasing stress hormones. It’s over the next 24 hours that your body will either grow some lean muscle mass or not, depending on the foods you eat and the quality of rest you get.

If there isn’t enough rest between efforts, you won’t be able to build any lean body mass and suffering an injury will become more and more likely.

This is why rest days are so important. Our body’s ability to recover is dependent on a lot of variables, but for most people, less is more when it comes to high-intensity training.


If you’re becoming over-reliant on coffee and other stimulants to get you through the day, that could be a sign that you aren’t taking enough rest days.

Another red flag is if your performance is declining. Even if you’re training for longevity, performance shouldn’t necessarily start declining out of the blue. That could be your body telling you something.

If you’re having trouble sleeping, that could be another sign of overtraining, and this one can become a vicious cycle that can spiral you into a deep hole that’s tough to get out of. When you aren’t taking enough rest days, your body may start to have a hard time getting into a parasympathetic state, which is necessary for restful deep sleep.

When is your rest day?

people working out in a group fitness class


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