People who are involved in a regular or daily fitness program see progress and with it they often get a desire to challenge the body to even better fitness. It’s fine to increase the intensity of your workouts; however, there is an aspect to fitness that many exercise advocates forget. Scheduled rest and recuperation time is vital for your workout program.
High intensity training can cause a need for longer recovery time. In fact, even moderate aerobic training or resistance training can create a need for more rest. Many people fall into overexercising due to good intentions but poor information. Many reason that if three training sessions per week are necessary for good fitness, then six must promote super fitness. In reality, BETTER training, not more training, produces better fitness.
Sports or fitness conditioning is achieved by applying stress, then waiting (resting) for the response. Rest builds up the body to a higher level of strength. During the rest periods, your body also recovers the energy it lost during a workout and builds up some extra energy for future workouts.
Without enough recovery time, you run the risk of over-training. Over-training is characterized by persistent soreness or stiffness, a rise in the resting heart rate, fatigue, lack of motivation, irritability or depression. If these symptoms are ignored, an injury will eventually force you to rest, and much longer time will be needed than if you were already scheduling recovery time. It is important to cooperate with your body’s cycles of work and recovery.
The anaerobic or peripheral system is the muscles. Strenuous exercise tears down the muscles on a microscopic level, placing stress on muscles, tendons and connective tissue. Proper rest builds up the muscle stronger than before the workout. Each muscle group needs 24-48 hours of rest in between workouts, to recover, repair, and rebuild muscle tissues, replace energy stores and remove exercise waste products. If you train the whole body with weights in one session, you can workout three times a week with at least one day of rest in between sessions. Some more advanced exercisers train more often, but they alternate the muscle groups they work, such as the upper body one day and the lower body the next.
The aerobic system is the central system composed of the heart, lungs and blood vessels. This system recovers fairly fast in a conditioned person. If you are at a high fitness level and you want daily aerobic exercise, vary the activity by choosing from walking, biking (stationary or outdoor), swimming, aerobic dance, stair machines, or running. At least one or two days a week take a complete rest from cardiovascular training. For beginners three workouts a week with a rest day in between is a good start until the body is used to a fitness routine. Once some conditioning has been achieved, a daily walk or other aerobic activity can be a fine goal.
The type and length of your activity will affect the amount of recovery you need. Marathon runners may need days of recovery after an event. Aerobics class participants who exercise every other day get enough rest from that schedule. Depending on the nature and intensity of the aerobics performed, recovery may take from 24 to 72 hours.
One tool that can help your exercise program is a training log. With it you can record your progress, spot trends and patterns that may lead to injury, and schedule needed rest. Some of the areas that you may log are suggested here.
- The hours you sleep. Sleep patterns are important to performance. Everyone has their own sleep requirements, and it’s important to get enough for your body to rebuild, repair, and replenish itself.
- Your waking pulse, measured before getting out of bed, can alert you to over-training. By taking your pulse at your wrist or neck for 1 minute upon awakening, you will notice if it increases during times of heavy training. An increase of more than 3 or 4 beats per minute can signal that you need more rest and recovery.
- Body weight. If you have lost 3 percent of more of your body weight in a day or two, you are dehydrated and need to increase fluids.
- Note the time of your workouts. Energy levels fluctuate during the day and are unique to individuals. By tracking yours, you can pinpoint the best time of day for your workouts.
- Exercise intensity. Use descriptive terms or a number scale to rate the intensity of each workout. This will help you avoid too many back to back high intensity workouts.
- Record your general feelings for each day. Mood may be a reliable factor in signaling illness or over-training. During an unusually intense training period you may experience higher depression, anxiety, anger and fatigue. If you are experiencing a lack of motivation, irritability, or depression and are training heavily, you probably need some extra rest.
- Note any physical discomfort, especially persistent soreness or stiffness around the joints. This is an over-training signal.
Using a training log and observing basic exercise guidelines, including the need for rest, will enhance your fitness program. By giving your body the recovery time it needs after exercise, you will be able to have real enjoyment in your workouts.