Don’t Forget to Rest!
It seems like yesterday I was looking forward to wrapping up 2011 with some down time and here we are cranking away at the near mid-month mark of January 2012! For those of you who’ve kicked your fitness resolutions in the butt by pounding the pavement or hitting the gym every single day since the New Year started, let me first be the first to offer a big, congratulatory pat on the back. Now I want you to take a day off!
You might be saying, “but Laura, you’re on Twitter, you know it’s #Workout Wednesday!” I didn’t say you have to make today your off-day, but you do need a minimum of one rest day during the week.
A rest day allows the body to recover from the stress of exercise and presents an opportunity for muscular repair and recovery of the central nervous system. Pushing your body day after day at the same group exercise class or on the same weight training circuit or along the same 5-mile route is one of the quickest paths to burning out on your routine. This can be especially true for anyone who’s new to a workout routine or just coming back after a lengthy hiatus.
The possibility of a mental meltdown aside, continuously pushing the body to the limit puts you at risk for overtraining. The following are some of the symptoms to look out for to determine if you’re overdoing it:
- Increased resting heart rate
- Increased resting blood pressure
- Slower recovery after exercise
- Overuse or stress-related injuries (e.g. stress fractures, tennis elbow and runner’s knee)
- Irritability or moodiness
- Disinterest in sex
- Amenorrhea (when a woman stops getting her monthly period)
- Increased numbers of colds / sore throats (shows decreased immunity)
- Decreased appetite
From what I learned through my NASM and AFAA studies, a good training frequency for the fitness newbie or anyone returning after a hiatus is three resistance workouts each week. This allows you to work your muscle groups with 48 hours of recovery in between. Cardio can be done on the in-between days or even on the same day. Even more seasoned athletes should give a muscle group a 48-hour rest period before pushing it to the limit again. Another good rule of thumb is to mix up your routine with cross training. Although I’m excited to take as many Zumba® classes as possible to continue my teaching prep, I’ll be sure to spread the classes out throughout the week. The same should be applied to your favorite cardio kickbox class or your favorite at-home DVD workout.
For those of you who can’t fathom even one day without any activity, turn your run into a long, leisurely walk or substitute your favorite cardio class with an extra-long session of stretching. In fact, the good news about flexibility training is that it can be done every single day of the week!
The bottom line is to remember taking a rest day doesn’t mean you’re being lazy. Rest is an important component of any fitness routine because it gives your body the energy to have fun, be fit and feel fabulous!