When to take a rest day

Crossfit is comprised of a lot of high-intensity workouts that put a huge load on our system. That intensity and work are only useful to us if we allow it to do its job to make us better. That job is done when we are resting.

Rest days are when you recover, physically and mentally. We go pretty hard in the gym and push our bodies to the limit. We break our muscles down, we get sore and tired, and that’s how we get better . . . kind of. Although heavy squats and pull-ups are the fun part, we get better when we allow our body to recover from that hard work, by focusing on the food we eat and the sleep we get.

The gym also takes a mental toll on us as well. As much as we love going to the gym and working out, there are times when that is the last thing we want to do, some days we’re just not feeling it. I know everyone has felt this way at some time or another. This is another great indicator that we might need a rest day.

You need to balance the yin with the yang. Meaning you need to balance all the hard work you put in the gym with rest and recovery time. Don’t get me wrong, the stimulus during training is good and is why we see improvements and why we get better, but you can have too much of a good thing. Putting the pedal to the metal all the time may cause the engine to blow, or in this case an injury.

Injuries can hinder our improvement and overall enjoyment in the gym. So as the saying goes, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. Or in other words, a taking a rest day or two can save you from spending weeks or months on the bench rehabbing an injury.

All of this is not black and white, rest or go hard, either. There is a middle ground to all of this too. Luckily we are in the sport of CrossFit which like many other sports has a skill aspect to it. Skills are best developed when you are fresh and not under load or fatigue. If we don’t feel like we need a full rest day but we also don’t feel like putting the pedal to the metal just yet, we can slow things down and work on skills.

This is a great opportunity to move a little bit, maybe even break a little sweat and build body awareness in a new movement. This does not mean, however, that you should start to work on double-unders or pull-ups and 15 minutes later be laying on the ground drenched in sweat and out of breath from ‘skill work’ because it turned into a max effort workout. It is still a skill recovery day.

Now, all this is not to say that whenever you feel slightly sore or tired that you should take that day completely off or anytime you don’t feel 100% like crushing it at the gym you should just stay in bed. No one else has your body, so no one can know exactly how you feel. Knowing your body comes with experiences, and in the beginning you will have to experiment with your workouts and your rest days. Somedays you may rest when you actually could have worked out, some days you may workout when you should have rested. Remember these experiences as you mature as an athlete and draw on them when you’re feeling a similar way. Use your past experiences as a road map to guide you in the future.