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You Deserve A Break

Want to know a sure-fire way to fail at getting fit? Over-train your body.

If you are involved in any sort of physical activity it should be common knowledge that rest days are imperative for success. And I know exactly what you’re feeling if your obsession with fitness is like mine:

Rest Day 01

^ That pretty much nails it. Probably the hardest day of the week is the one where you don’t get your sweat on.

But WHY is rest so important? What are the real implications to over-training?

Let me tell you that through my own experience, constant exercise with no rest not only tires your body and adrenal system, but it sets you up for injuries, stagnant progress, and frustration. Over the years I advised others to take rest days, yet held myself on a different podium where I developed this attitude “train hard or don’t train at all.”  I worked out every.single.day. and no matter how tired I felt, or how much my body wanted rest, I kept moving. Rest day? Yeah right! This says it best….

Rest Day 02

That was the exact attitude I had and it got me nowhere! You see, without rest your body is not given the required time it needs to repair muscle tissue, which means the more you workout the more tissues you end up tearing, and since they never heal they never grow. Over time I was working against myself and only exhausting my body of it’s energy source. Only upon a visit to my doctor where I was told to cut back and relax a bit did I start enforcing a weekly rest day (or days). This resulted in more energy for my workouts, better sleep at night, and a realization that no rest = no gains.

Not only does over-training harm your muscle growth, other symptoms of over-training include:

  • Exhaustion: Both mental and physical exhaustion occurs from over doing it. Your body is not given adequate time to recover, and your mind is not at ease. Simple activities begin to feel like marathons, and it is hard to accomplish everything you want to in one day.
  • Poor Performance: Neglecting to give your body rest and pushing through workout after workout over time will hinder your performance. Workouts that would normally be done with ease become overbearing, and you may not be reaching your goals as quickly.
  • Hormone Imbalance: Working out doesn’t just affect your appearance on the outside. Testosterone, estrogen, and cortisol levels (only a few of the many) are all affected from exercise. Over-training can cause hormones levels to raise or lower to extremes causing problems for men and women. Men may lose muscle mass, and women can develop menstruation issues. Don’t just pay attention to your outward appearance, listen to your body!
  • You Hurt More: Intense workouts may leave you incredibly sore for many days, and recovery takes longer to come. If you are feeling pain in your joints, or injure quickly, it’s time for a rest.

Any of that sound familiar? There are a slew of other issues that can arise from over-training, and if you often fit more then one of those descriptions, you need to re-evaluate your goals and how you will reach them. Among other things, the benefits of rest days include:

  • Tissue Recovery: As mentioned above, when you are resting is when your tissues repair themselves for another workout. This results in a stronger you and a more able body!
  • Body Adaptation: After putting stress on yourself from an intense workout, rest helps your body absorb that stress, recover from it, and pull through stronger the next time around. Over time your body will handle that stress better and be able to take on more intense exercise.
  • Time For You: It’s great that we manage to carve out time everyday to be physically active, but having one or two days a week where you aren’t spending time going to and from the gym means you have time to do something else you enjoy. Maybe catch up with a friend, clean your house, or read…the choice is yours.
  • Gain Composure: Like a re-feed day for carb cyclers, a rest day allows your body to unwind, store energy, and adjust to NOT being pushed to it’s limits. This sets you up for better progress at your next workout.

Just as you shouldn’t feel bad for a treat day, which I talk about here, you also shouldn’t feel bad for giving your body a break! Accept when you are tired and give your body what it wants and needs. Know that it is for the better and you will feel like a super hero for your next workout!!

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