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Take a break!


As promised this week Haylee has broken down the importance of rest in your training routine. But before we jump into it, for those you who haven’t met Haylee, here’s a quick introduction:


Haylee’s fitness journey….

I got into triathlon a few years back and spent many, many hours training and racing. I was always interested in the science of fitness training for racing, so doing fitness/PT courses was a great way to learn about it. Science is also part of my job. I am a scientist and I work on naming and classifying animals (the field is called taxonomy, and I can bore you with the details of it later). 

Favourite exercise….

Running. And burpees, because they're a most excellent full-body exercise.

Guilty pleasures…

None of my pleasures are guilty! I'll happily eat a burger while drinking a glass of red wine and listening to 80s pop music, as much as I'll enjoy a tough full-body weights workout or a long ride on a warm summer morning. I'm an 'everything in moderation' person.

Philosophy for life…

Don't be afraid to push yourself a little bit further than you think you can go (in life as well as in fitness).


Ok now that you know a little bit about Haylee, let’s get into the nitty gritty details of the blog, happy reading!


The importance of rest in fitness training

The principle of recovery in fitness training can often seem counter-intuitive to people new to fitness, or those keen to see large improvements in their performance. How does resting make me faster and stronger? It’s an easy answer: we aren’t machines, and it takes time for our bodies to recover from the stresses we subject them to.

If you don’t factor rest into your training program, you will not maximise your recovery, and your overall performance will suffer. Rest and recovery are important physiologically. For example, elite Australian Rules footballers require at least three days to adequately recover from a game, before returning to the heavy training loads to maintain their performance across the playing season (Montgomery & Hopkins 2013).

In resistance training, gains in size and strength of muscles are made via a continuous cycle of damage and repair to muscle fibres. If you work muscles hard (e.g., through high intensity interval training), micro-tears and damage occurs in the fibres as a result of the load on the muscle. The synthesis of new muscle fibres to repair the damage comes about during periods of recovery, where there is an overcompensation of protein synthesis for muscle repair (Hoffman 2014). This leads, over time, to larger muscles. If you train too much, you risk breaking down more muscle tissue than you build because you limit the time for protein synthesis and muscle repair.

Metabolic recovery of muscles is also critical. Fatigued muscles are unable to clear hydrogen ions (as a byproduct of energy production in muscles), or to maintain glycolytic regeneration of ATP (Adenosine triphosphate -the source of energy in muscles) (Minnett & Duffield 2014). Both these things decrease performance, and while they both can be rectified in minutes, both are associated with delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS), so a bit of extra rest may be beneficial. Rest is also very important for your brain. Neural pathways are being constantly fired up to recruit muscles and perform exercise. In highly neural activities, such as soccer, it can take up to 24 hours before muscles can produce the same forces as pre-match (Minnett & Duffield 2014).

All elite athletes build rest into their training programs to maximize their recovery, which leads to improvements in their overall performance. Tour de France cyclists have two rest days during their three-week race to enable their bodies to recover (a little). Taking a rest day is OK. In fact, it’s an important part of your training.




Hoffman, J (2014) Physiological aspects of sport training and performance 2nd ed. Human Kinetics, Champaign Illinois.

Minnett, GM & Duffield, R (2014) Is recovery by central or peripheral factors? A role for the brain in recovery following intermittent-sprint exercise. Frontiers in Physiology 5, 24 doi: 10.3389/fphys.2014.00024

Montgomery, PG and Hopkins, WG (2013) The effects of game and training loads on perceptual responses of muscle soreness in Australian Football. International Journal of Sports Physiology & Performance 8, 312-318.

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