Are my "active rest day" soccer games helping or hurting me?
How many times have we heard the saying "no pain no gain?" Or better, "You have to live in the gym to attain the body you want." Have you ever had someone say that?
I have to admit that for the first decade of my training, I followed those principles. I worked out six, often seven days per week. Looking back, I know that overtraining is the reason I went through longs plateaus with no improvement. I also blame it for the serious aches and pains that limited my lean muscle growth.
Then I smartened up. I began listening to my body and incorporated at least two rest days per week. My body responded. I felt stronger, had more endurance, and stopped feeling pain.
So, About Soccer?
I'm getting there, don't worry. In my opinion, an "active rest day" is a day when you take time off your usual training routine and perform lighter activities. What's a lighter activity? Active rest days can consist of short, light jogging, hiking, biking, or even going to the gym. These activities shouldn't exhaust you, but they will still burn calories.
To me, a rest day is a rest day, and a workout is a workout. When I train, my hard workouts are earlier in the week, and the last days of the week are reserved for easier workouts. I don't believe in active resting because, technically, you're still doing a workout. If you're playing in a full-field soccer game, you're definitely not resting. Why not just allow your body to recover?
Resting is the most important part of the muscle-building process. Workouts tear down your muscles. Resting allows them to repair and grow. If you are someone who trains all the time with little rest, you will probably make better gains if you took more days off. Your body builds muscle when it's resting, not when it's working out.
If you train Monday through Friday, you should take Saturday and Sunday completely off. If you enjoy your Sunday soccer games, choose another day to use as a rest day. Your soccer game should count as a workout. Rest means rest—plain and simple.
You are not the Terminator or a machine. You are human being. Your joints and muscles need to recuperate.