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The Importance of Rest Days in CrossFit

CrossFit is one of those sports that people have a hard time taking a break from - even for 24 hours. And I get it! It’s fun, and rewarding, and it makes you feel great! But too much exercise, particularly as intense as CrossFit, can lead to burnout, worse performance, and injury.

In elementary school we’re taught that we should reach 60 minutes of cardiovascular exercise every single day. This always stuck with me, perhaps because of my underlying OCD and perfectionism, and I would feel guilty, even at that age, when I didn’t exercise every day. But the truth is, doing exercise as intense as CrossFit every single day is a bad, even terrible, idea.

Here are some important reminders when it comes to rest days:

With rest days

  1. You will have better performance

    1. It is going to be much harder to hit a new PR or improve your mile time if you are working out every day without a chance for your muscles to recover. Studies have shown that you will most likely experience reduced endurance, slow reaction times, and worsened agility. Rest, on the other hand, increases energy and prevents fatigue.

2. Your energy will be replenished

  1. Our muscles store carbohydrates in the form of glycogen, which is broken down during your workout for your body to use as fuel. Rest days help to restore our glycogen so that we can perform our best in our next workout.

3. You will have better sleep

  1. Many people advertise that regular, healthy exercise has its benefits for sleeping - but many people don’t know that rest days also improve your sleep! Exercise increases energy-boosting hormones such as adrenaline and cortisol… consequently, overexercising can lead to an overproduction of these hormones, making it harder to fall asleep. Not enough sleep leaves us fatigued and exhausted, meaning that we can’t perform as well in our workouts. Rest days regulate your hormones, which can help you have better sleep.

4. You will feel less sore

  1. Rest days remove excess lactate from the muscles; without rest days, the lactate will build up and cause increased muscle soreness and pain. Also, rest helps your circulatory system to remove metabolic byproducts in your muscle cells, which form as a result of exercise; lastly, rest also delivers oxygen and nutrients needed to repair damaged tissue.

Without rest days:

  1. Your muscles will not be able to repair themselves

    1. Despite popular belief, your muscles don’t actually grow when you’re working out; instead, rest days are when your muscles truly grow. Exercise creates tiny tears in your muscle tissue, which can only be repaired by cells called fibroblasts. These tears are the reason for DOMS (Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness). This repair by fibroblasts helps mend and grow the tissue, which results in stronger muscles.

2. Injury is much more common.

  1. If you overwork your body, it is more likely that you will lose your form, step wrong, or make another costly mistake. Overtraining also causes repetitive stress and strain on your muscles, which increases your risk of injury. The tears in the muscles we were talking about can become muscle sprains if rest is not taken to repair them. Rest days are also important for your bones, which are responsible for absorbing shock throughout a CrossFit workout (i.e. running or jumping). Similar to muscles, bones become stronger and need time to recover in order to prevent a stress fracture. If you have a hard time coping with rest days, remember that it’s better to take just 24-72 hours off, then become injured and be forced to take months off.

3. You may lose strength

  1. Normally, your body uses glycolysis (the breakdown of carbohydrates) to fuel your workouts. However, without rest days and the ability for your body to replenish your carbohydrates supply, your body will have to rely on protein that is meant to be used for strengthening and repairing your muscles.


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