The Difference between Rest and Recovery, And Why They're Both Equally as Important

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Rest and recovery may sound like it could throw a spanner in your fitness works, but rest and recovery are both vitally important, albeit slightly different.

Those who are passionate about exercise and/or physical fitness are often very committed to their program, which often means that they tend to exercise five to six days out of seven. With many athletes adopting the “no pain, no gain” mantra, rest and recovery are often thrown out the window, even though they’re crucial to long-term success; which as an athlete should be the ultimate goal.

What is the difference?

Recovery is defined as returning to a better state, while Rest is defined as inactivity. In other words, having a rest day would mean that you plan on being inactive and not partaking in much physical activity. Taking a recovery day means that you are consciously opting to do something that helps your body recover.

Why are they both important?

Just the same as any other element in life, very few things, the body included, can keep going without refueling or taking time out.Rest and recovery are vital for the body to perform at its best. When we weight train or do any form of resistance training our muscles are essentially breaking down. Taking a rest day allows those muscles to be put back together and begin to rebuild.

To be specific, when our muscles are worked in physical exercise, they’re essentially experiencing tiny microscopic tears. Working out for 7 days straight without rest, therefore, means that your muscles are tearing constantly and are not being given the chance to repair and rebuild. This increases your chances of injury.

Typically, one to two rest days should be taken per week in order to allow your muscles time to heal and rebuild. If you are just starting out, resting just a little bit more could be beneficial as your body is not used to undergoing that much strain and needs time to ease into constantly working out.

Recovery days are just as important as rest days because sometimes our muscles need the extra support in their efforts to rebuild. Taking a recovery day is purposefully doing something to help muscles rebuild and put themselves back together. Good recovery day activities are mobilising, stretching, or going for a walk. Additional recovery activities can be something less intense and more focussed on muscle treatment, like yoga, a massage or a stim machine.

Although rest days should be prioritised, recovery days can be done on a rest day, but should also be incorporated. 

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