There is a lot of discourse surrounding cardio, weight training, and rest days. No two people will give you the same answer, and there is a lot of debate to be had. So should you be doing cardio on your rest days or not?
How important is a rest day in working out?
Firstly, the question of whether you should do cardio on rest days very much implies that you primarily train using weights, because if you were running or cycling as your primary training principle, you wouldn't consider doing even more cardio on your rest days. So let's assume you train 4 times a week lifting weights, which leaves 3 potential rest days a week. You may feel like not doing anything at all for 3 days a week will mean that you won't make as much as progress as if you were more active, but rest is just as important as hitting the gym! When you are lifting weights, you are actually tearing your muscles. It is only when you eat, sleep, and recover that your muscles are repairing and growing back bigger and stronger than before. Therefore, taking a rest day is very important in working out. If you continue to train when you are feeling very sore and achy, you could potentially injure yourself and do more damage than good.
How much should you rest between workouts?
This differs from person to person. If you have only recently started training or have started a new regime, your body will need longer to recover as it becomes accustomed to the stress and strain. The longer you have been doing a particular sport, the less rest you will need as muscle memory starts to kick in; it's important to mix up your training so that you continue to see results. As a general rule, you should not train a muscle group that is already aching. If your legs are sore, you could still do an upper body workout for example but it would not be wise to go for a long cycle or do a spin class. Listen to your body as that is always the most important thing.
So as for doing cardio on your rest days. That depends on your individual goals. If you primarily want to build muscle, you do not need to do cardio on your rest days. However, if you want to strip fat and keep your cardiovascular fitness up, it is recommended you do a light cardio session like a run or swim between weight sessions. You should always have at least one day a week where you do absolutely nothing though so that your body has a chance to keep up and fully recover.
Read more: Rest Day Cardio Workout
From marathon runners fuelling with cocaine to running a marathon backwards, we look at some of the most crazy fun facts about running.
1. Runners used to drink champagne as an energy drink
It may seem crazy and dangerous to runners today, but back in Victorian times it was thought that alcohol was a performance enhancer. It is thought that this tradition dates all the way back to Ancient Greece and China. Incredibly, they would also take drugs such as heroin and cocaine to enhance their performance, something that is unthinkable today.
We now know that alcohol is a diuretic and can cause dehydration, meaning it is the complete opposite of what you'd want while running an endurance race, especially in hot weather.
Imagine getting to the aid station during a race and being presented with this!
2. The World Record for running a half marathon backwards is 1 hour 40 minutes
Think your half marathon PB is good? Could you do it backwards? German Achim Aretz set the World Record for fastest half marathon running backwards in 2009 in Essen, Germany.
3. Oprah Winfrey ran a marathon in 4 hours 29 minutes
Over the course of her training, she lost over 70lbs in body weight and slimmed down to an athletic frame of 150lbs (68kg). Other notable celebrities to have completed a marathon include former US President George W Bush in a time of 3:44:52 and Bryan Cranston (better known to some as Hal from Malcolm in the Middle and Walter White in Breaking Bad) in a time of 3:20:45.
4. You can run a marathon in the desert, at the North Pole, or even around Mount Everest
Man's insatiable desire to forever beat yesterday and achieve more than ever before has meant that running races are getting tougher and tougher every year. It's no longer impressive to say you've run a marathon. These days, it's notable to have run an extreme marathon.
The Marathon Des Sables is a 150-mile ultra marathon in the Sahara desert and is one of the most popular and desirable running races in the world. On the other end of the spectrum, the Mount Everest marathon starts at Everest Base Camp and runs to Namche Bazaar. Conditions can be very challenging, especially due to the altitude, and runners are required to spend at least 3 weeks in Nepal before taking part so that they can acclimatise first.
5. The winner of the 1904 Olympic marathon completed most of the course in a car
The third edition of the modern Olympic games took place in 1904 in St. Louis, Missouri, USA. It was the first time the Olympics had taken place outside of Europe and only 12 countries participated.
The marathon event went down in history as a complete disaster, as sweltering heat and dusty tracks meant many of the competitors had to pull out. One such competitor who suffered from the conditions was Frederick Lorz. He pulled out after 14.5km (9 miles) and got his coach to drive him the rest of the way in a car. However, the car broke down and Lorz walked back into the stadium on foot.
As he entered the stadium, the crowd cheered him as the first finisher and he was crowned the winner. He played along until it was later found that someone else was the true winner.
We all know that exercise is great for shedding those extra pounds, but what about all the other amazing benefits? Exercise can improve your mood, your skin, and even your sex life. We take a look.
1. It'll take you to places you never would have gone otherwise
Have you ever signed up for a race just because it's in an interesting place? This is a very common occurrence, as travelling somewhere for a race gives it more purpose and you may well have a chance to see it in a way regular tourists wouldn't. For example, there are races in the UK that follow disused railway tracks that are closed to the public, as well as races that take place on private property like farms and manor houses.
Not to mention, if your preferred form of exercise is hiking, trekking, or trail running, you will be able to see stunning locations away from roads and towns that can only be accessed via the trails. The view is always worth it!
2. Meet like-minded people and make new friends
It can be hard to make new friends and forge new relationships as an adult. Apart from work colleagues and family, there are not many opportunities to make meaningful new relationships. Going to a gym or joining a running club can be the perfect way to find like-minded people who all have the same goal and experiences. You may even find people going through the same struggles as you who can act as a support system.
This will motivate you to continue exercising and soon it will be one of your favourite social activities. There are many people who frequent gyms just to chat and see friendly faces. Sports like CrossFit especially are exceptionally community-oriented and are all about supporting each other and cheering each other on.
3. Ability to do daily tasks more easily
If you've never exercised, chances are you may get a sore back from bending down to load the dishwasher or sore arms from carrying the shopping. By building up both your muscular strength and cardiovascular endurance, you will find that daily life is much easier to navigate.
Functional fitness is a type of training specifically designed to improve your body's natural functionality and the movements mimic everyday activities. However, simply by lifting weights and doing regular cardio, you will find that chores and keeping up with your kids are infinitely easier. You'll no longer get out of breath walking up the stairs or running for your train, and the vacuum cleaner won't feel as heavy!
4. You will live longer
Many of us are guilty of living in the moment so much that we don't think ahead to the future. If you have children and grandchildren, you want to be around as long as possible to watch them grow and enjoy a happy, healthy life with them. However, if you do not live a healthy lifestyle, your time with them will be greatly reduced.
Not only this, exercising regularly will improve your quality of life and can keep your immune system healthy and strong.By doing strength work, you will increase your bone density and therefore reduce the risk of bone fractures in old age. You will also be far more mobile as you age and will be able to enjoy your life much more.
Sundried ran a poll and found that out of 256 people, 174 of them prefer to train in the morning while 82 prefer to train in the evening. But does it make a difference to performance? Or is it just personal preference? We take a look.
Best time of day to exercise for maximum weight loss
While there is no conclusive proof that training before breakfast aids weight loss, it is true that working out in the morning sets you up for a good day and will leave you burning more calories over the course of the day. However, after firing up your metabolism early in the morning, you will find that you are hungrier than normal throughout the day, so make sure you don't reverse the positive effects by overeating to compensate.
Another benefit to working out in the morning is that you are more likely to have more energy and therefore work harder during your training. As such, you will unconsciously burn more calories than you would doing a half-hearted workout after a tough day at work.
Best time to exercise to gain muscle
Studies have found that the body's strength and flexibility is actually at its peak in the late afternoon and that this is also the time when our perceived exertion rate (how difficult we find the workout) is at its lowest, meaning you are more likely to find the workout easier at this time.
That said, if you have been sat at a desk under artificial lights all day, chances are you will be tired and hungry and going to do a big strength session will be the last thing you want to do.
Research has actually found that the body adapts to regular workout times, so if you always hit the gym after work at 6pm, it will eventually perform better at that time than any other time of day. The best thing you can do, therefore, is go when suits you and make sure you eat plenty throughout the day to fuel you ready for your big session after work.
Is it better to train on an empty stomach?
Research is inconclusive on whether training fasted actually has any benefits when it comes to losing weight. However, if you are a long-distance endurance athlete, such as training for a marathon, doing fasted cardio is good for training your body to undergo exertion with low glycogen stores. What this does is prepare you both physically and mentally for those times in endurance work when you are running low on sugar stores.
However, by training fasted you will compromise on performance and you will most certainly find your workout harder. Therefore, it is good to train on an empty stomach every now and then to prepare for endurance sports, but other than that there is no proof to support training on an empty stomach for any other reason.
Related: Should I Train Fasted?
Is it better to exercise in the morning or evening?
So, it seems there are arguments for working out both in the morning and the evening. In the end it will always come down to personal choice.
Benefits of training in the morning
- You will be more fresh and ready to train
- You can train fasted before breakfast
- You will burn more calories throughout the day
- You won't need to worry about fitting in a workout after work
- You are less likely to skip your workout
Benefits of training in the evening
- Research shows we are stronger and more flexible at this time
- You will not be rushed for time
- You are more likely to be able to train with a buddy
- You will benefit from the extra energy of eating throughout the day
- You are more likely to sleep better
When it comes to fitness, it can be hard to know what to believe. There are so many myths floating around and everyone seems to have a differing opinion on everything from exercise form to nutrition. We debunk some of the most commonly believed fitness myths with support from science and fact.
Squatting below parallel will damage your knees
This is something a lot of people believe and use it as an excuse not to squat properly. The fact of the matter is that if squatting too low does hurt your knees, you should not be squatting at all. Instead, you should seek medical advice and do mobility and physiotherapy exercises in order to address the issue at its root and improve your squat technique. You should start with something easy like a bodyweight squat or one of the many squat variations out there before moving onto a squat using a barbell.
Squatting below parallel is the proper way to perform a squat and will get the best results. According to research by the Centre for Sport Performance at California State University, if you are a healthy individual with good mobility and perform the squat with good form, there is no evidence to suggest squatting below parallel is detrimental to knee health. It is actually harder to do a half-rep as it puts more strain on your muscles and you don’t have the advantage of being able to bounce out of the bottom of the move.
You should stretch before exercise
It’s easy to see how this myth has become common as it sounds right, but according to top medical professionals it’s never a good idea to stretch cold muscles and you could hurt yourself if you do so. The correct advice is that you should always warm up before exercise in order to increase blood flow, but this doesn’t mean doing static stretches. Instead, you should do dynamic stretches such as leg swings and arm rotations which will warm up your muscles and joints safely without the risk of pulling or tearing tissue.
You’re a failure if you walk during a run
This is sadly something a lot of people believe and they would rather shuffle slowly in misery than walk for a few seconds to recoup. You can easily improve your running times by allowing yourself to walk for a few steps when you need to rather than running slowly overall. According to research, running continuously puts a lot of strain not only on the muscles but also on the central nervous system, and running non-stop, especially during something like a marathon, isn’t good for you unless you are a trained athlete with expert advice from a professional coach. You will find that you achieve better results and feel far better after you finish if you allow yourself a few walk breaks - they don’t need to be more than a few seconds.
You should eat five portions of fruit a day
The government guidelines that we should be eating ‘five-a-day’ has changed many times over the years, but the basic logic stays the same: we all need to eat more greens. However, fruits and vegetables should not be treated the same as fruits contain high amounts of sugar while vegetables contain high amounts of fibre. If your ‘five-a-day’ is all coming from fruit, you will be missing out on vital nutrients that would be found in the likes of green, leafy vegetables and will be unwittingly eating copious amounts of sugar. Make sure you’re eating more vegetables rather than lots of fruit.