Here in Colorado exists a strange phenomenon not so broadly seen anywhere else in this country. A situation so foreign to the majority, in fact, that privy outsiders may just dismiss your disclosed affliction as pure madness. An imaginary ordeal brought up simply for the pleasure of braggadocio. I’m talking about “Overtraining Syndrome”.
Overtraining is a real problem. Yes, it sounds counter-intuitive or contradictory to reports that we as Americans are lazy and need to move more, but (like most things), there is a delicate balance between not enough and balls-to-the-wall-extreme-supernatural-overkill.
Rest is just as important, if not more so, than the work itself with regards to exercise. Of course, you have to have one to have the other. Rest is when the body rebuilds and repairs the muscle tissue that was broken down by your workout. Energy levels restore, and the body is renewed during resting periods. Too often, those of us who enjoy exercise feel guilty taking any time off. We feel as though we are cheating ourselves, or that we may regress – negating all of our hard work and progress. This is simply not true, and to deny this could set you back more than you might think.
Normally the notion of overtraining has been reserved for the elite athletes, but more research is suggesting that there are degrees of excess that affect athletes of every level. Symptoms that you’ve gone too far include general feelings of malaise, depression (“the funk”), decrease in performance, persistent muscle soreness, and fatigue. When your body begins to burn out, as coaches and trainers commonly refer to it, you become more susceptible to illness and much more likely to risk injury. If you do not give your body sufficient rest time, your subsequent workouts will not deliver the same benefits. The repair processes in your muscles become over-stimulated and will eventually shut down. I would trade a day off for the many months of setback due to injury any day.
It’s just not worth it. What I recommend, in general, is to take a minimum of two days off per week, non-consecutively. Too many rest days in a row can put a dent in your endurance, but don’t beat yourself up if that happens. Life gets in the way sometimes, and getting back on track is a whole lot better than quitting the game altogether.
Let’s not ignore the often misunderstood need for rest periods within your workout. In the most simplistic explanation, studies have shown that testosterone and growth hormone production increases during shorter rest periods (30 to 90 seconds), while the longer rest periods (3 to 5 minutes) allow for greater overall strength gains. If you are working on heavy lifts, for example, doing alternate exercises while you rest will allow your muscles to begin their healing process, enabling you to lift the same weight in your next set. If your goal is fat loss, on the other hand, shorter rest periods are more efficient due to the way our body uses energy.
Bottom line: rest is vital to your training and overall health. Moderation is key. Have a clear goal in mind, and don’t sabotage your efforts because you want a “quick fix”. Slow and steady wins the race, or something like that. Intention goes a long way.
Jodilyn Stuart is the owner of ModaBody Fitness and has been a fitness professional since 1997. She currently contributes to 303 Magazine as a Fitness and Health writer.