Okay, so you’ve finally gotten the exercise bug and are working out on a regular weekly basis. You’ve embraced that it’s not all about cardio (resistance training is your friend) and you are joyously seeing results! Then the true “gym-rat” addiction takes hold. You dig deeper, start lifting heavier and more often, and spend more time in general obsessing about your workouts.
But suddenly you find you are no longer losing weight, or growing muscle (whichever your goal may be). You’ve plateaud and you can’t figure out why. You change your routine trying in vein to achieve new results. You increase your cardio, throw in more more stressful combination core/lifting moves, and then you add another day and worse yet, maybe even cut back on calories! Soon you’re training six, maybe even seven times a week. Still your results are small, your body is exhausted, you no longer sleep well or you’re sleepy all the time.
Now you’ve overtrained! It’s true, you can work out too much. The body needs time to recover. I have seen it many times, clients who understand not to work the same body part two days in a row (so the muscles have time to heal and grow), but they seem to ignore that the body as a whole needs time off. They fully understand the need for protein and healthy carbs to help the muscles replenish and thereby burn fat, but they get so preoccupied with scale results that they taper back on food. Facing a wall to their success, they often suffer discouragement and therefore go to the other extreme and slack off on their workouts and nutrition.
Any of this sound familiar to you? If it does, here’s the key to stopping this yo-yo cycle of over training, followed by under training. REST! It’s that simple. If you work out more than one-hour five times a week, you MUST rest (i.e., NO exercise) for the remaining two days. These do not have to be consecutive, but at least every three to four days there is a day of rest.
Sleep is also an essential factor to your goals. A minimum of seven hours is needed per night to help your muscles and organs recover from the onslaught of constant weight lifting and barrage of non-stop food intake that goes with this kind of training.
As for stress, everyone should know by now that stress is a huge factor in weight gain and there’s another reason for the two days off. Life is all about moderation. During those two days you can spend time playing with the kids, or playing as a big kid does and enjoy life!
With proper rest and sleep, a consistent level of nutritionally healthy calories, and time spent decompressing – you will not overtrain, and you WILL continue to see results.
Speaking of kids, this is even more important advice for children. I’ve seen many parents or coaches pushing children involved in sports to train or practice every day. Their bodies need even more rest than an adult body, and their emotions need it too. Driven too hard to train for a sport, they’ll likely lose their passion for it, and/or their school work will suffer due to their body’s exhaustion.