The Benefits of Taking a Break (Without Guilt!)

By Sarah Leahy – June 30, 2021

We live in a hustle-driven world. In and out of the gym, we’re encouraged to take “no days off” to constantly be working toward our goals — to turn everything we do into a revenue stream. We’ve made a habit of optimizing every aspect of our lives, and while it can be rewarding to see your hard work pay off, we’re in serious need of a break. In addition to living a foot-on-the-gas mentality, the last year of working largely from home has continued to blur the line between our work and personal lives, and it’s time for us to reset. 

Let’s use this summer as an opportunity to take some long weekends; some road trips; some full days off to fully rest and recharge, so we can start feeling a little more balanced and a lot more in-tune with our lives. 

For those of us self-professed gym rats, taking a full vacation can be tough. While we may be able to take a break from the emails, phone calls and Zoom meetings of our work lives, the thought of going multiple days without hitting the gym sounds downright scary. What if I lose all my progress? What if I have no motivation to get back at it after my break? What about my gains, bro? Well, never fear, because a full rest and reset might be just what your body needs to perform at its peak. 

There are numerous physical and mental benefits to disconnecting and giving your body and mind a little rest and relaxation. 

  1. Muscle Recovery – Every time you strength train, you are tearing down your muscle fibers. This allows them to rebuild and grow, gaining strength and size depending upon your training strategy. While that post-workout pump and delayed onset muscle soreness makes you feel like you’ve achieved something, your muscles can’t go nonstop without a little time to repair. While post-workout carbs and protein are vital for restoring your muscle glycogen, multiple studies have shown that rest periods are important for allowing your muscles to repair and rebuild after consecutive days of strenuous exercise. What better way to give your body a rest than a long weekend on the beach? 
  2. Catching Up on Sleep – Rest is the most overlooked aspect of a healthy lifestyle. We remember to hit the gym, eat our protein and veggies, foam roll and stretch, hydrate — but sleep is often elusive. By unplugging and finding a relaxing change of scene, even for a few days, you can get more restful sleep, quieter days and allow your body to sleep and wake naturally to help reset your sleep cycle and give you more deep, restorative sleep. A 2013 sleep study in the American Journal of Physiology concluded that using two days (a typical weekend) to catch up on sleep did improve daytime sleepiness but did not show improvements in overall performance for sleep-deprived individuals, suggesting that a reset of longer than two days is needed for those that don’t get enough sleep due to work and life demands. So, take that extended break and let your body rest and recharge naturally!
  3. Mental Health – We all recognize the beauty, stillness and calm that we experience in nature. Taking time to be outdoors, enjoying a hike, a canoe trip or just reading a book in the park helps us feel centered, grounded and at peace. This mental break and reset is important for our mind and emotional state, but it’s also a vital part of our body’s ability to perform. Our long workdays, compounded by our constant connection to technology, being “on” at all hours of the day, attached to screens and always accessible, creates mental and emotional strain, making it almost impossible to unplug. Studies have shown that prolonged mental fatigue caused by our everyday life demands can actually decrease our physical performance. So take that week off, let your brain reset and enjoy the mental and physical benefits of a well-rested you. 

The bottom line? A week of vacation time, unplugged and away from the demands of work and the gym, may be just what your body needs to hit that reset button and come back stronger and more focused to keep working towards your fitness goals. So go explore the world, and leave your alarm clock at home. 


About the Author

Sarah is a Minneapolis transplant in East Austin and is a certified personal trainer, award-winning interior designer, and former gym owner. She offers in-person and online training with an emphasis on strength training and building confidence in and out of the gym.  Sarah’s passion for strength extends to your business, with a full offering of gym design and business consulting services.


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