Rest is as Important as Training

6 April, 2012
Rest is as Important as Training

We’re all guilty of being overzealous at times with our exercise and sometimes being totally obsessed with constantly training but excessive enthusiasm can end in failure. It could be the very reason you’re not reaching your training goals and why you’re getting sick more often or picking up more injuries. Unfortunately, rest doesn’t count as rest if you’re not exercising because you’re ill, getting sick is your body’s way of telling you that you need to take some time off because it’s shattered anyway and you have already pushed it to the max. Your body can get so caught up with repairing muscles that it doesn’t have enough resources to fight off bugs or viruses.

A study in the European Journal of Applied Physiology and Occupational Physiology found that rowers who trained hard for seven consecutive weeks had low levels of muscle-building hormone testosterone and high levels of the brawn-eating hormone cortisol. This is evidence that the muscles are about to shrink and the body is about to get sick. But when they took a week off from training, their hormone levels returned to normal, which put their bodies back into muscle-building and high performance mode. You see, only a fool thinks he’ll shrink and regress if he takes a few days, or even a week off from the gym. Rest is as necessary for growth as the hard work.

Most programs are 6 – 8 weeks duration and this is the perfect time to do absolutely nothing for an entire week and let your body recover. You don’t have to duct tape yourself to the couch and you can even do a bit of light activity (some people call it fun stuff); doing something fun instead of going to the gym won’t mean you will shrivel up. In fact, you’ll grow bigger and get fitter as you recharge your body and your mind. Then when you return to training you’ll be bigger, stronger, and faster and have the renewed motivation to set new records, and maybe even allow you to have some fun for the week. A win/win situation!

Most top athletes know that getting enough rest after exercise is essential for high level performance, so take some tips from the professional athlete and you will improve your game. The body repairs, rebuilds and strengthens itself in the time between workouts, and continuous training will actually weaken even the strongest of athletes. Exercise or any other physical work causes changes in the body such as muscle tissue breakdown and the depletion of energy stores (muscle glycogen) as well as fluid loss.Too few rest and recovery days can lead to overtraining syndrome,a difficult condition to recover from. Without sufficient time to repair and replenish, the body will continue to breakdown from intensive exercise. Signs of overtraining include a feeling of general malaise, staleness, depression, decreased sports performance and increased risk of injury. So, hopefully now, that week off won’t seem so daunting, and you will start to enjoy a week to be good to yourself and your body as you know that you will be coming back stronger and not weaker.

One other important factor in rest is SLEEP; too many of us don’t get enough of it. One or two nights of poor or little sleep won’t have much impact on performance, but consistently getting inadequate sleep can result in subtle changes in hormone levels, particularly those related to stress, muscle recovery and mood. Research indicates that sleep deprivation can lead to increased levels of cortisol (a stress hormone), decreased activity of human growth hormone (which is needed for tissue repair), and decreased glycogen synthesis(which is needed for energy). Other studies link sleep deprivation with decreased aerobic endurance and increased ratings of perceived exertion.

So, start getting REST in between training and feel rest assured that you will only become stronger, fitter, faster and leaner because of it. Start monitoring your workouts with a training log,and pay attention to how your body feels and how motivated you are is extremely helpful in determining your recovery needs and modifying your training program accordingly. And always take a break in between switching programs.

Love Doctor Cathy x

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