Many athletes know that getting enough rest after exercise is essential to greater performance, but still continue to overtrain. They think that more is better and that if they take a day off they will feel guilty. What they do not realize is the body repairs itself in between workouts, and continuous training actually can weaken the athlete.
Rest days are crucial to sports performance for many different reasons. Some are physiological and some are psychological. Rest is necessary so the body can repair itself and strengthen itself. For the weekend warrior, implementing rest days can make time for other activities such as spending time with family, work and other fitness goals.
The worst that can happen with the lack of rest days is a condition called "overtraining syndrome", a condition that is very hard to come back from. Experts point out that many bodybuilders, including professionals, tend to train 4-5 days a week with a few rest days somewhere in there. The reason being is that training puts a lot of stress on the tendons and joints. The goal is to reduce wear and tear on the body while optimizing results for athletic performance. Overdoing training reverses this process and causes the body to wear on itself thus being a root cause for sickness and chronic tiredness.
Athletes that train often are also prone to fluid loss and depletion of energy as mentioned above. Recovery allows for these stores to be replenished and the tissues to be repaired. Without enough time to repair and replenish the body will breakdown as a result. The symptoms of overtraining include depression, decreased athletic performance, sickness, irritability, loss of motivation, insomnia, decreased appetite, weight loss, elevated heart rate, injury prone and persistent muscle soreness.
Overtraining is also the cause of what is known as a plateau. This is where one may become "stuck in a rut", preventing further progress or noticeable results. Ways to recover from training include deep tissue massage, yoga, meditation, acupressure/acupuncture, swimming, contrast bath, cryotherapy and heat therapy.