10 reasons you need a day off the gym

6 March 2014 by
First published: 6 March 2014

From crashing your immune system to injuring yourself, there are 10 reasons you need a day off the gym sometimes. Whether you’re looking to boost times or shift the pounds, training smart is the way forward.

1. You’re becoming irritable
Mood swings, easily irritated and crying over rom coms? Overtraining can seriously affect your emotional state. If you’re feeling highly strung for no reason, take a few days of complete rest and see if things improve.

2. You’ve hit a mental barrier
If you’ve plateaued with running times or your one rep max, it might not be your physical ability at all. ‘A day off gives your body time to rest, but also allows you to refocus mentally,’ explains personal trainer Tom Eastham. ‘Balance is important in life – have a day off and go out with a group of friends who complain they never get to see you enough; probably because you’re at the gym five nights a week!’

3. You’re becoming obsessed
Sure, a gym addiction is better than, say, a spending addiction or booze addiction. But before you know it, you’ll be flaking on friends, shunning social situations and becoming an elusive, exercising loner. Keep a balance for long-term happiness.

4. Repair for results
Oh, you thought that results were achieved in the gym? Actually it’s your time outside of the gym that allows you to repair the muscles you’ve worked at. ‘If you have trouble accepting a rest day, try calling it a regeneration day,’ Tom advises. ‘When you rest, your body has a chance to repair tissue damage caused by training, reduce cortisol levels and grow new muscle tissue. It regenerates when you rest and only when you rest.’

5. It’s gotten too easy
Sticking to your gym routine day in, day out makes things easier on your body. Sounds good, we know, but the more familiar your body becomes with exercise, the less you’re able to challenge it in order to get results. It might hurt more after some time off, but that means it’s working.

6. You’re not losing any more weight
If you’re exercising to slim down, then you need to train smart. It’s easy to see results initially, but keeping it going is harder, and unfortunately weight loss isn’t simply calories in versus calories out, according to Tom: ‘After a while, we need to look closely at the body, notably which hormones are being produced or not produced,’ he explains. ‘Lack of rest from insufficient sleep levels, for example, affect the amount of leptin in the body – which regulates satiety. Reduced levels are linked to higher body fat levels.’

7. You’re neglecting aspects of fitness
There are many aspects of fitness, from endurance to strength. An aspect of fitness that is often forgotten is flexibility. Tons of exercise can cause certain muscles to get stiff and tight – spending a day off and instead stretching and foam rolling can fix this, and is an active form of recovery.

8. You can boost your performance
Getting better, whether it’s cycling or powerlifting, requires a holistic outlook. It’s a combination of training, the correct diet and resting properly. ‘If one of these factors is missing, you’ll not achieve the performance you’re looking for,’ adds Tom. ‘Typically we tend to overtrain and fail to regenerate. Top athletes across all disciplines have regeneration days as part of their schedule to ensure they’re not overtraining.’

9. You’re only human!
Remember dinner parties, family gatherings and going to the movies? No? It’s probably because your gym routine has taken over your life. We’re all guilty of it sometimes, but just remember what really matters – exercise is a key aspect to health, but makes up just a small segment of the whole picture.

10. You keep getting injured or ill
Got a recurring injury? Or just prone to injuring yourself? You probably don’t need us to tell you why. ‘Usually when you’re overtraining you will become run down or start to suffer from niggling injuries,’ says Tom. ‘They’ll only restrict you from doing your best – just try stopping!’