We’re always told to be active and get moving, but what is not always emphasized is rest. Sometimes, more is not always better.
Overtraining is when your body is put under more stress than it can recover from which ends up affecting performance levels in the gym.
How do I know If I am overtraining?
Overtraining symptoms can include persistent muscle soreness, persistent fatigue, reduced heart rate variability, decreased immune function, slow recovery and more.
The first thing you should ask yourself is how is your sleep. Are you able to have quality sleep?
Second, consider your energy levels. Are you always fatigued?
Third, you should be aware of your general recovery. Are you constantly sore and worse than usual?
Finally, take a look at your overall strength. If it has been down recently then maybe it’s time to back down on training.
In addition to changes in your training, it's important to look at other recovery factors such as your sleep, diet and lifestyle as well.
Deload week refers to a period of reducing your training workload for a week or two. This helps prevent overuse injuries and sensitizes the body to training hard again, leading to better results over the long term.
To deload, you can cut training volume rough in half and back down the weight by 25-50%. This can also give your connective tissues a full break without losing progress.
In one study, it was found that a group that training continuously for 15 weeks saw the same gains as a group that took a 3-week break halfway through.
Benefits of Rest Days
1. Reduces the Chance of Injury
Rest days can help reduce the risk of being injured. When you are overtrained, you may not perform the exercises with the correct form, your focus might not be there and then you are more likely to make the wrong move which can lead to injury.
Not only do your muscles need time to recover, but your connective tissue as well, maybe even more!
2. Gives Your Muscle a Chance to Grow
Believe it or not, muscle grows when you are resting, not training. During training, you break down the muscle fibers, called muscle tears. During recovery and proper nutrition, these microtears become repaired and grow, forming muscle mass.
This is why rest is vital for muscle growth.
3. Helps with Motivation
When you never give yourself a break, it can be very hard to find motivation to work out. Because you haven’t given your body enough time to rest for a very long time, your workout program becomes boring. Not only that, but when you are overtrained, your performance decreases. This also adds to reduced motivation levels.
4. Helps You Sleep Better
Although staying healthy and exercising regularly helps improve your sleep, overtraining can provide the opposite effect.
When you are overtrained, it is possible to suffer from sleep insomnia. During sleep are when you are recovering and hormones are released. When fewer hormones are being produced, your recovery is compromised.
This also leads to an increased production of cortisol, your stress hormone. Cortisol encourages your body to store fat instead of using it as fuel. Overtime, this can lead to weight gain, difficulty sleeping and a perpetual never ending cycling.
5. Support Your Immune System
Your immune system serves as your body’s first defense line against harmful bacteria and viruses. When you over exercise, your inflammation levels increase. When this happens, your immune system is unable to fight pathogens and other bacteria.
However, don’t overthink it. Stressing on whether you're recovering right will also lead to weakened immune function. Just relax and do what feels good for your body and mind.
What to Do on Your Rest Day
Prioritize Protein and Nutrition
Instead of trying to cut back your calories because you are less active during your recovery period, listen to your body. Sometimes you will need to eat more to help with the recovery and sometimes you don't.
Also remember to prioritize your protein intake. Eating enough protein will help support muscle repair, which happens during rest.
The Recommended Dietary Allowance (RDA) for protein is about 0.8 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight. For athletes who practice weight lifting or other sports, 1.2 to 2 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight is ideal. Don’t forget to keep hydrated as well!
Yoga or Other Low Impact Workouts
As always, listening to your body is key during your fitness journey. When you are recovering, you might just need to chill completely and not do anything at all. Other times, you might feel like you need to get some blood flowing.
Performing low impact workouts can help you feel good without compensating your recovery period. For example, a long walk or yoga is perfect to do on your rest days. The various poses in yoga can help lengthen our muscles and tendons, which can help with recovery. It is also very beneficial for improving our flexibility, mobility and reducing overall stress.
Rest is necessary for everyone. Especially if you are a frequent gym go-er, make sure you are prioritizing your recovery. It will help muscle repair and improve your performance. Letting your body rest is sometimes the best thing you can do.
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