How to Boost Athletic Performance With Active Rest

Posted: January 28, 2013 in Recovery
By Karen Mirlenbrink • For

Rest is a four-letter word that many athletes and fitness buffs hate to hear. However, rest is an essential part of any training program. Rest benefits the athlete both physiologically and mentally. Though the athlete may feel guilty for taking a day, a week or a month off of their training plan, recovery can help take the athlete’s performance to the next level.

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Why is Rest Important?

Many training programs consist of workouts that are repetitive. If you’re getting ready for a sporting event or training for a fitness goal, you’re most likely doing the same movements over and over again. And you’re probably increasing the intensity of the repetitive movement as your training progresses.

Constant repetitive movement can cause a lot of wear and tear on the body. The repetition can cause acute injury like delayed onset muscle soreness (which is healthy).

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However, without proper rest the acute injury can lead to chronic injury, like tendonitis, bursitis or muscle ruptures (tears. Exercise stresses the body and causes a normal loss in fluid, muscular breakdown and disbursement of stored energy (glycogen). The body heals, hydrates, and restores used energy through recovery.

How to Add Rest Into Your Training Plan?

Rest needs to be looked as an important element to your workout routine. Periodizing your training plan is an easy way to build in the rest that you need.

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Periodization is a training program design that sets your plan into seasons and allows you to train accordingly. Within those seasons, specific workouts and rest days are planned.

For example, if you’re training to run a few 10Ks, you would have a pre-season that conditions you for the distance. You would workout 4 to 5 days a week. During in season you train for speed and skill 3 to 5 days per week. During post-season your training is an active rest.

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Rest doesn’t mean you’re not active; active rest allows the body to heal. It’s a great opportunity for you to cross train. For example, if you’re a runner, once a week take a day to do an easy bike ride with your family.

What Happens if You Don’t Rest?

If you continue training without giving your body adequate rest, you run the risk of injury.

Overtraining is a condition that occurs when a person’s workout volume and intensity exceeds their body’s ability to recover from it. This affects the athlete physically, behaviorally and emotionally; and can set their progress back dramatically.

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Some symptoms of overtraining are:

  • Chronic muscle soreness that doesn’t heal or go away
  • Weight loss/muscle loss
  • Fatigue
  • Insomnia
  • Loss of appetite
  • Decreased immune system
  • No motivation or competitive drive
  • Heart palpitations
  • Depression
  • Delayed recover
  • Prone to injury
  • Poor physical performance despite training


What is the cure for overtraining? Rest.

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