As a devout fitness enthusiast, "take no days off" has been a go-to mantra. It's one of my all-time favorite quotes and for good reason. Chanting those four words in my head, to this day, still manages to give me an extra boost of grit workout after workout — no matter how tired or sore I may get. But my "go-hard or go-home" attitude has a few downsides, including pushing my body way beyond its limits plenty of times and injuring myself in the process. Overtraining is real, and let me tell you: It can happen to anyone at any time.
The act of working out itself does NOT make you stronger; the time you take to recover is when you actually build muscle. According to ACE Fitness, at some point, exercise does the body much more harm than good. This can occur in one of two ways: You don't allow for enough recovery time or you're repeatedly "under-fueling" your body. Under-fueling is when you don't eat/drink enough before working out or you double up on workouts without changing your eating habits, both of which put your health at serious risk.
To clarify, working out is the breaking down of muscle fibers to create tiny tears. Recovery is muscle growth and repair of the “injuries” you’ve created. If you continually break down muscles without repair, you’re on the road to what we call overtraining. Before I learned this, I used to train twice a day without rest for up to two weeks. I felt fine! I mean, I was in great shape and didn't think anything bad could happen. But when one of my knees started to hurt, and then my lower back, and then my hips, and finally my whole body, I realized I had to seek help.
Long story short, I went to a sports medicine specialist and was told that my nervous system was in shock. My body wasn't able to recover in between my workouts, and I had started losing muscle because of it. If I wanted to prevent long-term injuries, I needed to rest for at least 14 days.
Fear you might be overtraining too?
ACE Fitness lists the following as a few signs you should be aware of:
1. Decreased performance during workouts.
2. Workouts seem more difficult than usual.
3. Moodiness and agitation throughout the day.
4. Insomnia and trouble falling asleep/
6. Chronic soreness or injuries.
While many people share different opinions about the importance of rest, it's vital to listen to your body. If you're not into being totally idle, try "active rest" (e.g. going for a walk, cleaning up the house, doing yard work, etc.); that way you're still allowing your body key time to repair itself. At the end of the day, the most effective workout programs are designed to be sustainable, so please be sure to take care of yourself.
Here's a challenge! This week, replace that seventh workout day with a Netflix movie-thon. Grab a healthy snack, put on some sweatpants, and chill! For more information on ACE Fitness, click here to visit their website.