Ask the Personal Trainer: Rest Between Workouts

How long should I rest between workouts?
trainerAsk The Personal Trainer

Q: How long of a break should I take between my workouts?

A: This is an excellent question and one that is a source of confusion for many who work out. The answer depends on what kind of exercise you're talking about and how hard you're doing it.

You can easily perform moderate aerobic activities (e.g., walking, cycling, swimming) on a daily basis without much concern for over-training. In fact, the Surgeon General's Report on Physical Activity and Health recommends that people perform 30 minutes of accumulated exercise on most, preferably all, days of the week. But keep in mind that this advice applies to low to moderate intensities. If you're training at high intensities that leave you sore after each workout, then you would be well advised to give yourself a day off between such sessions (i.e., 48 hours total) for recovery.

Weight lifting may also impose heavier demands on your muscles, thus necessitating a full 48-hour recovery in between sessions. If you're new to lifting, you may find yourself quite sore after your first few sessions. In that case, you may even want to wait 72 hours between weight workouts.
If you're doing a combined cardio/weight routine, then you will need to strategize to maximize the effectiveness of both modalities and avoid over-training. For example, do your cardio on all or most days of the week, complemented with a three-day-per-week (Monday, Wednesday, Friday or Tuesday, Thursday, Saturday) weight regimen targeting all major muscles of the body. On the days when you do both, you may want to reduce your cardio time or intensity so that you have some energy left for your weight training.

In this Q&A series, William Sukala, MS, CSCS, answers questions about fitness and exercise. Read more articles from our personal trainer.

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