The vast majority of fitness articles and workout tips that you’ll come across – about 99.99% of them – deal with the exercise side of the fitness equation. But the rest and recovery component can have every bit as much of an impact on your fitness level as can the exercise component….
Rest. Too many exercise fanatics, “rest” is a four-letter word. Well it is a four-letter word, but you know what I mean…a lot of people look at rest as being a bad, four-letter word. In reality, nothing is further from the truth, as getting the proper amount of rest should be an integral component and concern of every training program. There are all kinds of rest; rest between sets, rest between exercises, and rest between workouts are all important variables. But for the sake of this item, what I’m going to talk about fits into the rest between workouts category. How many of you take a week off when you’re feeling great? You know, do nothing. No trips to the gym, no laps in the pool, no running or “stair-climbing” or “ellipticaling?” No programmed workout. No competitive tennis or other racquet sports or rigorous mountain biking? Nada. You might be surprised to hear a fitness type like myself advising people to take a week off. And yet, that is exactly what I’m doing. I’m telling you – demanding! – that all of you take a week off from training when you are feeling 100% fantastic, primo, very good. It will be one of the toughest things you’ve ever done, but it will also be one of the most beneficial things that you can ever do as well. I give my clients this advice and get these same old excuses, “But I take a week off when I have a cold,” or “I took a week off when I hurt my elbow,” or “I didn’t lift last week, my allergies were bad,” or “I didn’t workout last week I just ran and went swimming,” or “I didn’t work out the week I competed in the mini-triathlon.” Someone really used that last one on me. Taking time off when you’re sick or hurt is not taking time off; it’s recovering from an injury or illness. This isn’t the same thing as taking time off when you are healthy and your body’s rest mechanism is working on all cylinders. Getting rest when you are 100% is key to getting into and staying in great shape, and can help you avoid all kinds of nagging injuries. I take my week off whenever I feel that I’ve had a great stretch of workouts.
About 8 weeks ago, I really picked up the intensity of my training as I was working out with a client who recently signed with the NFL’s Baltimore Ravens. He just turned 23 and I’m going to be 45. For a relatively short period of time I can keep up with young whippersnappers, but after a while, the intensity gets to these old bones and I have to take a break. So after an intense 6-week period where I had about 12 great workouts, I went Cold Turkey for a week. At the end of this run of great workouts, I felt a little heavy-legged, and actually tested my vertical jump and found I couldn’t reach my normal height. That’s a strong indication of overtraining and I got the message that it was time for a rest. Fifteen years ago, I would have kept pushing and would have invariably tweaked my shoulder or my forearm – two of my trouble spots – but now I know better. Rest is my best friend, and it is yours as well.