Do I Need a Rest Day?

Do I need a rest day? And if I do, what exactly is a rest day?

We keep hearing all this information about how many days a week we should be exercising and how many hours per day but then the expert mentions, “oh, and don’t forget your rest day.”

I know that we all need some rest time but I think there are different kinds of rest days:

The Easy Rest Day

The easy day is when you take a break from your workout routine

If you’ve listened to the Becoming Elli podcast, you’ll have heard the different trainers we’ve talked to give us advice on doing aerobic exercise 3 or 4 times a week and strength work 2 or 3 times a week.  Everyone always says, “and you need a rest day.”

This rest day isn’t a lie on the couch and binge on your favorite Netflix series. Instead, it’s a good day to still do something but it shouldn’t be strenuous. We all need that off day. Instead of running or using the elliptical, just go for a pleasant walk. Or maybe try a restorative yoga class. If you haven’t tried restorative yoga, trust me, it’s relaxing. A regular yoga class would work too. Just take it easy but still keep moving.

I always try to get my 10,000 steps and I stick to that even if I’m resting. You may decide to do it differently but it’s just a decision I made.

Post-race Rest Day

The days following a race or high-level activity often leave you feeling sore and tired. When you’ve done something more strenuous than usual, such as running a race or doing something like the fitness challenge that I did a few weeks ago, you may need a more serious rest day. In fact, you may need more than one rest day.

marathon of maintaining a weight loss

Again, if you’ve really strained your muscles, lying around isn’t going to help. I know after I ran the Cleveland Half Marathon, every time I sat for an extended period of time, my muscles tightened and I then hobbled around, looking like a penguin. You’re better off to go for an easy walk and keep moving but don’t really push yourself.

This is also a good time to stretch and be gentle with your body. You could even go for a massage or find a hot tub to soak in.

Pay attention to your body and don’t push it. Let your muscles heal.

Rest Day When Sick

The times when you’re not feeling well often lead to a rest day. This is sometimes the most difficult for me. If you’re not feeling well, you probably need to take it easy. Let your energies go to healing yourself. The problem with resting when you’re ill is that often times we’re ill for multiple days. You feel like you’re losing ground when you don’t work out for all of that time.


If possible, do an easy walk or move around a bit. Be patient with yourself because even though you may feel like you’re falling behind on your training schedule, it’s important to take care of your health.

If you’re not feeling well mentally or emotionally, you have to judge if a rest day is in your best interest. Sometimes I feel down and then don’t want to do anything but doing something often improves my mood. If you just don’t have the energy to go to your HIIT class or run the 5 miles you were supposed to do, try something less strenuous. Again, go for a walk or take a yoga class.

Strolling for Health

I noticed that for every instance of resting that I mentioned, I suggested going for a walk. Perhaps instead of calling it a rest day, we should call it, Easy Walk Day or Strolling for Health.

It’s important to give your body a chance to recover from all of the training you do. It’s also important that you move those muscles a bit so you don’t tighten up and walk like a penguin.

rest day

1 thought on “Do I Need a Rest Day?”

  1. Thanks for writing about rest days, Jill! It seems like this topic is often overlooked when talking about fitness! I think rest days are as important as the heavy workout days. To me, a good night sleep is an important part of a rest day – and depending on my schedule, maybe even a short nap. I find my body really likes to restore when I’m sleeping and I think my brain hits reset. The steps on my rest days are usually from doing “normal” things like laundry, vacuuming, dishes or grocery shopping. It’s amazing how much housework provides steps without being overly strenuous. I feel like my muscles, tendons and ligaments get a break on those days!

    Notice I didn’t mention things like window washing or mulching. To me that is much more strenuous.

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