One of the questions I get all the time is how often I take rest days. CrossFit promotes the three on one off concept which I think works well. For most weightlifters the three on one off progression could work depending on how the program is loaded. However, for most athletes, there’s a distinct difference between a recovery day and a rest day. A rest day is complete detachment from your sport and a mental and physical break away from any training whatsoever. Rest days are days to do exactly that. Rest. A recovery day is a bit different as it allows the athlete to do some sport-related activity or just some general physical preparedness work. A good example is that most weightlifters take a recovery day by doing a bar warm up with some lights snatches and some light clean and jerks. I do this, along with most competitive lifters, the day before a big meet.
The idea of a rest day however is not one unique or created from fitness. In Genesis 1, God established the rest day. On the seventh day, after a week of good work, the Bible says He rested. There are numerous commendations and commands to take what the Bible calls a Sabbath day. Religious terms for a rest day.
God commands his people to take a Sabbath day for a lot of different reasons. All of those reasons revolve around our necessity to keep our eyes and heart set on him. Taking days away from our sport, our job, or the wear and tear of daily living is crucial to provide mental and physical wholeness. Not only does the Sabbath day allow our bodies to rest and prepare for six days of work, but taking a Sabbath day is a discipline that can drive us to the Lord.
Think about all the days you stress, work, train, and grind out the ebb and flow of life. Mankind works extremely hard when our hearts and minds are set on something. When we want to achieve the highest level possible on our sport, we train with that kind of resolve. When our greatest desire is to see our family provided for and to nourish their needs, we work our tails off vocationally to provide them with the best possible livelihood. We work and work and work day in and day out. Taking an entire day to rest and not complete some of these task seems a bit irresponsible. That’s the beauty of the discipline. Our fleshly, earthly mindset says that seven days of work will always accomplish more than six days of work. This seems to make basic common sense in our minds.
The magnificence of taking a Sabbath day is what you are saying about the Lord’s faithfulness in your action. Taking an entire day away from your work and away from your training is to say that you trust the Lord’s faithfulness to provide all we need to accomplish all that He desires in six days not seven. He modeled this for us by creating all of creation in six days and taking a seventh to rest. He commanded it of us asking the Hebrews to not plant crops, but to let the fields rest every seventh year. The discipline of the Sabbath, while it works to allow our bodies and our minds to relax, is a discipline designed to test our faith. Our faith grows stronger when we put our full trust in the Lord to provide all we need in less days than we have been given.
The fitness community has made the rest day popular again. However, it is not a new idea and not one to be considered only for physical recovery. Trust the Lord. Psalm 46 commands us to “Be still and know that He is God.” Take a day to spend time with your family or hang out with your friends. Take that day to read a good book. Take that day to relax. Trust that what God says can be done in six days doesn’t need to be extended to seven. He is faithful. He has always been faithful. A Christian’s trust in this truth presses us to the Sabbath.