Are you a professional NFL or NBA player? A bodybuilder or powerlifter? Or maybe you’re just a regular person who’s training for your own personal reasons...Whatever the case may be you can still fall victim to overtraining if you do not appreciate the benefits of the occasional rest and de-loading.
“ANYBODY can train hard. There’s nothing magical about that. It’s all about training SMARTER.” – Rob Gronkowski
Over-Training Vs Under-Recovery
Do you need to take a day off? How about a week off? You’ve definitely been told that de-load weeks are amazing at avoiding overtraining without taking any time off the weights.
Actually, most people don’t have the ability to push into overtraining. In order to understand why, we need to define “overtraining”. Overtraining is a state in which the body, physically and mentally, can’t keep up with training. In other words, you’re continually breaking the body down and it just isn’t able to recover or heal. If pushed far enough into overtraining, you will actually stop making gains altogether or you can even end up reversing gains that you’ve already made!
This, however, can only happen to the most advanced athletes. For them, it becomes a fine balance between optimal results and not pushing too far into overtraining.
So does this mean that all normal, healthy lifters can just train like crazy and never worry about overtraining? Of course not, but this is where we should swap the word “overtraining” with the term “under-recovery”. Regardless of their training level, anyone can still train so hard that their body has a hard time keeping up. Sounds awfully similar to overtraining, right? The major difference is that these athletes aren’t taking every advantage to recover in order to have the right balance of workload to recovery.
For example, an intermediate powerlifter trains hard four days a week. He’s very beat up and showing many signs of “overtraining”. He thinks that he’s overtraining and takes a step back from his lifting. Is he really overtraining though, or is he under-recovering?
The word “under-recovering” emphasizes recovery whereas overtraining emphasizes training. In the great majority of cases, it isn’t the training that’s the problem. It’s the lack of recovery that is needed to keep up with that training. In fact, recovery is more important than training, yet it seems that training gets most of the spotlight. Think about this. You’re always getting swarmed with training and workout tips. You rarely, if ever, encounter advice on how to recover or what to do to improve your recovery. This is a huge mistake in modern training that needs to be addressed.
Why Is Rest And Recovery So Important?
- Rest Prevents Injury
It’s common sense that resting is beneficial for injury reduction, but why? Well for starters, rest days prevent overuse. That extends from running to lifting and even walking. If you’re a regular runner, you know how much your legs and feet can take until you just need a day off. If you push it too hard without a break, your muscles and joints suffer from overuse and that’s where injuries can happen.
- Your Muscles & Tendons Need Rest
This is likely the first thing you learned about strength training. When you lift weights, you’re essentially tearing muscle fibers. But without a proper period of rest for your immune system to repair and grow the muscle, you’re not going to get the benefit of your training. That’s why you need to vary the muscle groups you engage on staggered days.
- Your Performance Won’t Dip
In general, it takes your body almost two weeks of non-activity before you start losing a noticeable amount of your progress or performance level. So don’t think that taking a day or two off from training will set you back all that hard work you’ve put in.
- Over-Training Affects Sleep
Is your sleep data all over the place? Under-recovery could be the culprit. Too much exercise can put your body in a constant state of restlessness or on high alert making a good night’s sleep tough to achieve. A telltale sign is an increase in your resting heart rate. Taking those rest days can help bring down your alertness and heart rate, which can help get you a night of sound sleep.
- Your Immune System Can Overheat
During periods of heavy activity, our immune systems are constantly activating to repair muscles and joints. Without proper rest, your immune system can’t catch up to all the repairs your body needs. And then? You guessed it: injuries.
- Mental Edge
From a psychological standpoint, taking a rest period can rekindle your hunger for exercise and help prevent burnout. Mental fatigue can be every bit as detrimental as physical fatigue and taking a rest day helps to recharge the psyche.
So what can you do to get your mind right when it comes to resting? For starters, you’re going to have to make the mental adjustment to understanding and believing that you can take days off. It’s good for you, for all the reasons listed above.
Just like setting your daily steps goals, set your rest goals. Plot out a schedule and pick your weekly rest days; one or two days where you limit your activity to allow your body/muscles to recover. And don’t forget that active recovery is also hugely beneficial, and a standard routine of stretching or light yoga to improve flexibility and circulation can be especially valuable.
In A Nutshell…
…you do not get stronger during exercise. You get stronger during rest and recovery. The truth is that nonstop exercise can only make you weaker. If you’re young, you might feel invincible, but you’re not. If you want to learn the answer to the question “what would it take for me to be able to swing on these rings when I’m 60 or 70 or 80 years old?”, consider the following…it would take proper technique and rest.
Training is like a puzzle with many pieces. To see the big picture, you need all the parts and each piece is important. Recovery and rest is a big piece of the puzzle right in the middle. Start taking time to consider your recovery just as much as you consider your training. You'll see results, and you'll really increase your overall performance no matter the reasons and the goals you are training for. In fact, go take a nap right now and grow strong!