Though often overlooked, rest and recuperation are vital parts of exercise and strength training. If you keep pushing yourself, lifting every day and doing other workouts, you’ll really be doing more harm than good.
You Need More Than You Think
If you’re a serious athlete, you probably train a lot. One volleyball player I talked to had 3 practices a week, lifted in the gym 3 days a week, and did other training on the side. That’s way too much!
For strength training and weight lifting, your body needs much less stimulus than you think it does. Provided you are pushing yourself to your limit every time you go to the gym, you can make progress only training once a week, or even less.
John Little and Doug McGuff, two people on the cutting edge of strength training research, advocate a workout routine where you go to the gym just once every 7 days, and sometimes once every 2 weeks. You simply wear yourself down a ton when you’re at the gym, and then give your body ample time to recover and build yourself new muscle. The extra time you take off to rest is not wasted. You’re doing yourself a service and making time for your muscles to grow.
Some people can, of course, make more gains working out more often. Training 3-5 days a week is what some people associate with being a regular at the gym, and elite athletes are usually pushing 6 days a week of intense training. But unless you are über-elite, you can meet many of your fitness goals with a lot less effort than you think. You have to work hard when you’re in the gym and working out, but other than that, give yourself time off.
One Thing at a Time
When you’re running, run. When you’re doing weight lifting, lift. When you’re wrestling, wrestle. When you’re bike riding, ride. If you have back-to-back running, working out, biking, and other things, it’s easy to overload yourself. You might be pushing your body too far too fast, and that road leads to injury.
Especially if you’re just starting to exercise again after a while off, you may remember being very active in the past. But it would be a mistake to jump into activity at the same level as you remember doing months or years ago. Take it slow and you’ll make more progress than you believe.
The necessity of rest and recuperation for your sanity is important also. Psychologically, you need to be able to workout and train, and then give yourself time to reflect on your workouts, talk to people, and just goof-off.
I know the pain that can come from overly fixating on one activity. This issue is especially prevalent with athletes since it’s productive that you’re always thinking of how to get better, but it becomes an unhealthy level of obsession.
The ability to rest, sleep, go see a movie with friends, or read the comics, helps your mind to unwind. And your sports will improve because of it also since you’ll be able to take more joy in them.
Rest More In The Beginning
Especially when you start exercising again, go slowly. There’s nobody important to show off for, and it’s more crucial to get back into the habit of exercising than to be giving 110%.
Start with going to the gym once or twice a week. You’ll get the aches and pains of starting to exercise again, but also the satisfaction of starting to exercise. This is way more important than say, a kamikaze resolution to exercise every single day that will likely end up injuring you.
Overtraining is the point when you’ve been resting so little that you actually start moving backward. You can’t lift as much in the gym as you used to, your ability to do your sport goes down, and you feel tired, fatigued, and generally “spent” all the time. This has serious psychological consequences, as well as physical ones.
Physically, overtraining will get you inured. Sometimes it will be minor, sometimes it will be major, but either way it will be no fun. Psychologically, overtraining will drain you. It will leave you dreading your sport or activity and make you feel totally obligated to it. It will also make you feel horribly guilty if you miss a single workout.
Taking time off to rest is crucial in these instances. Your body will be able to stabilize itself. For mild cases, a few days to a week can do it but if you’ve been pushed at a murderous pace for years, you should consider a few weeks to a month off and focus on doing something else.
So, Remember to Take Some Time Off
Take some time off. Relax. Every once in a while, skip a workout. Exercise, sports and weight lifting is fun, so keep it that way!