Today is my Rest Day. I am not going to do any type of high-impact exercising at all. My shoulder is sore and my poor muscles need rest. Now, part of me wants to do my workouts anyway. No pain, no gain, right? However, I've been reading up on the subject and the benefits of taking a day off every week (or even more often than that) are many.
First of all... you deserve it. If you've been working out regularly all week and have done your best to improve your health and fitness you absolutely deserve to take the focus off of your weight and muscles and just BE. We don't want to become so focused on our journey to fitness that we let everything else fall to the back burner. Giving yourself a break once in a while is good for the body and the spirit. Have a lazy day. Have a crazy day. Just spend some time doing anything you feel like doing, even if it's sleeping in, laying around reading a book or hanging out with friends and family. Give yourself a day to just relax and renew.
Secondly, your muscles need it. When you exercise, your muscles actually break down. They need time to repair and replenish the elements lost during your workouts. If you keep exercising and working those muscles non-stop without giving them a break, it can actually do more harm than good. They will just keep breaking down without being able to build back up. Yes, your body does heal while you sleep, however, that is not necessarily enough for your muscles to repair and rebuild muscle and connective tissue. Not allowing enough resting periods for your muscles can lead to increased muscle break down and may lead to over-training and injury.
Third, if you don't give your muscles time to heal your metabolism may slow down. This is definitely not something that a dieter wants to happen. In order for muscles to make a complete recovery, protein stores and energy stores need to be replaced. If your muscles are not given the time to recover, they can become progressively smaller. In the course of a few weeks, in regards to the dieter, this can mean a gradual decline in lean tissue, thus lowering your metabolism. This results in less calories burned overall then the need to decrease your caloric intake which may already be at the lowest end to begin with, or the need to burn more calories through exercise which just keeps you in a vicious cycle and exasperates the problem.
Fourth, You don't want to get burned out. If you have recently begun eating right and implementing daily exercise into your life, you probably have been going all-out. Your motivation is high, you are excited and raring to see results. However, if you are serious about becoming a more fit and healthy person, you need to look at this not as a Diet, but as a Lifestyle Change. You have the rest of your life to worry about. This is not a "Lose 10 Pounds In 3 Days And Keep It Off Forever" diet scam. This is your LIFE. Pace yourself, take it one day at a time and don't lose sight of the big picture. I know many people who are all Gung-Ho during the first couple weeks of their 'diets' just to give up because they have burned themselves out, overwhelmed themselves and didn't see results quickly enough. If you are trying to lose weight, get toned, be healthier in general, remember... you did not gain your weight overnight and it will not come off overnight either. This is a life-long process that will take a while, but the results will be worth it.
If you feel you absolutely HAVE to do something, make it something that is low-key. Try Yoga, stretching or a walk in the park or around the block. Having regular rest days will leave you refreshed and rejuvenated for your next few days of workouts!