Give It A Rest – Power Up Your Rest Days

LETS TALK ABOUT REST DAYS.

Do you take rest days? Do you feel guilty if you do? Do you feel like you have to be training hard every day to improve?

I understand all of those feelings and tried my best to train everyday until suddenly I couldn’t any more. I would be so incredibly tired and yet still think I needed to go to the gym and then would sit at home feeling guilty for not going.

That approach was a fast-track ticket to burn out and resulted in being injured and forced to take 4 months off. But what I discovered during that time off was HOW AMAZING EXERCISE IS WHEN YOU DON’T FEEL CONSTANTLY EXHAUSTED.

When you rest, you make gains. You either get bigger, stronger or better at your sport. When you’re constantly knackered, you do not.

When you rest you are able to give your next training session maximum effort. You’re more focused and energised. When you’re pooped, you aren’t.

And if your aim is to be heckin’ good at roller derby, you better be able to bring your A game to every practice!

Your muscles will not grow if you do not give them time to repair. Your injuries will not heal if you don’t give them time to recover. Your brain will not assimilate strategy if you don’t let it sleep.

 

Fast-Track To Burnout Town

Gone are the days when you’d get laughed at for crosstraining and the after party was taken as seriously as the game. Everyone is way more clued up on off-skates training and we all know that to be the best you need to train hard.

We see our derby and fitness heroes on Instagram, seemingly training every single day, and believe that that is the only way to get where we want to be.

We have the pressure of tournaments, games, the never-ending-season and team try outs so obviously, we need to train, train and train some more.

And how many of us count our practices as a workout? My guess is not many.

Plus we all have lives, right? Jobs or college and family and friends (and possibly other hobbies but what is there besides derby) that all take energy, both physical and mental.

I have not even mentioned your non-skating derby commitments.

THAT IS A LOT.

Overtraining

Yes we need to push ourselves to improve, but consistently training hard with little to no rest = overtraining.

Signs you’re overtraining:

  • Constantly feeling tired
  • Poor performance in your sport and cross-training activities
  • Difficulty sleeping/difficulty waking up
  • Generalised muscle soreness
  • Difficulty regulating your emotions
  • Lack of focus
  • Frequently sick
  • Collecting injuries like badges/beanie babies/stamps/other collectible item

None of that is particularly good, fun or enjoyable but sometimes you don’t even notice you’re feeling that way until you hit a wall. Sometimes in derby, that’s a literal wall.

You Better Know Yourself 

Only a few people can train hard every day and not see a drop in performance, and it is A-OK if you aren’t one of them – we are all different and recover at different rates.
Your recovery speed will depend on your genetics, diet, the type of training you do, how much sleep you get and even sadly, your age. *sad trombone* The older we get, the longer it can take us to recover from physical exertion. But the good/bad news is that if you’ve been fit your whole life, age seems be less of a factor. *shakes fist at junior skaters*
If you’re training for a tournament, you might want to train fatigued to get used to performing well on your third or fourth game of the weekend but its not generally a good idea to do this all the time. Some tiredness after exercise is good, but you shouldn’t be waking up every single day feeling like you’ve been hit by a truck.
So listen to your body and don’t compare your recovery rate to someone else’s.

 

Prioritise Your Priority

What are your goals right now? Do you wanna get hench as heck? Or do you need to get reaaaally freaking good at roller derby for that big tournament in a few months. Sometimes you have to choose which is more important to you and plan your training accordingly.

This is the basic concept behind periodisation and is helped massively by a defined post, off, pre and in-season (which, I know, is not a luxury we all have).

Most sports’ full-season periodisation looks something like this:

  • Post-season: Rest, recovery, stretching & relaxing immediately after your season ends. (Chill time!)
  • Off-season: Build muscle, strength and address imbalances, performing little cardio. (Gainz time!)
  • Pre-season: Building power, speed, explosiveness, cardio and sports specific training. (Work time!)
  • In-season: Maintaining strength, staying healthy, adjusting training to manage fatigue. (Go time!)

(If your season doesn’t have a defined start and end, besides campaigning to your league for an off-season, you can look ahead to where your most important games are and work backwards. For sports with long seasons like ours, the phases might cycle through more quickly and more often to ensure you’re peaking at the right time. There are some links below that go into more detail on periodisation!)

The idea is for each phase to build on the last to get you performing at your best. And as such, your priority for each phase is different and that priority is sometimes rest!

Rest Is Part Of The Program

Something that has really helped me to avoid the rest-day guilt is having a proper training program written for me with rest (more specifically; stretch and recovery) days scheduled in.
The program helps me trust that X amount of cross-training days is enough for my goals and that I’m not being lazy if I’m “only” stretching or having a total rest.
Speak to a professional PT about your goals, be realistic about how much time and energy you have and let them figure it out for you. (I highly recommend Alex Valentine and Prime Octopus)

 

Power Up Your Rest Days

The best way to avoid burnout and ensure you can perform at your best is to take your rest days seriously.
  • Stick to the schedule – if rest days are in your program, they’re there for a reason. Just because you don’t feel tired, doesn’t mean you need to go to the gym. Fatigue accumulates and your program will account for that.
  • Sleep your way to the top – aim for at least 8 hours of sleep, have a lie in or take a nap, cancel morning plans and switch off your screens way before bedtime! Sleep is super important for recovery for your brain and bod.
  • Eat your recovery – instead of reaching for the coffee, scoff loads of veggies, whole grains and protein to refuel and repair your muscles. But if you’re craving cake, eat the damn cake.
  • Hydrate hunnie – again, not coffee! Grab that water and chug chug chug! Chances are you’re dehydrated from late practice anyway and you will just feel better for not overdosing on sweet, sweet caffeine.
  • Rest or recovery? – if you’re a little sore but feeling ok, feel free to stretch, roll or do some light exercise to recover. However if you’re 100% dead, you need to 100% rest. Your body will thank you.

Of course, sleep, nutrition and hydration are all things you should be thinking about everyday to avoid burnout and fuel your performance.

So I hereby grant you permission to take rest days – AS MANY REST DAYS AS YOU NEED – and pledge to share my #restday selfies to show that REST IS PART OF THE PROGRAM.

 

Further reading & the science behind overtraining, rest & recovery: