When did you last take a rest day from your fitness program?
Listen, if you have been on your grind for the last 9+ days and showing up to the gym every single day let me start by saying I am so proud of you.
That's a huge effort. It isn't easy to front up nine days in a row!
However (and it's a big however) that kind of guns-blazing action might be okay for short periods to get you through a plateau but long term it's not good for you.
Rest days are just as important as days in the gym because it’s during rest that our bodies repair, build muscle, and get even stronger.
Are you getting addicted to exercise?
Well, duh. It's pretty hard not to get addicted.
That release of endorphins you get after a good run, known as the ‘runner’s high’, can get you hooked, can’t it?
Even the ‘burn’ you feel when lifting weights day in and day out can flood you with a sense of strength and triumph is addictive, spurring you on to keep powering on.
But when you get so addicted to it that you never miss a workout – not when you’ve hurt yourself, not when your real life plate is overloaded, not even when you’re too sick to go to work? It may be time to meet the sneaky little gremlin that could be the reason for your results plateauing.
So what is overtraining?
When you over train, you are pushing your body above and beyond its capacity to recover and adapt in time for your next training session. This means that your body is still in a weakened state and unable to perform to its highest potential the next time you hit the pavement or pick up a weight.
Overtraining is basically working too hard without giving your body time to recover and heal.
Each time you work out, you are actually tearing muscle tissue, which takes time to heal. In fact, it takes four to seven days for muscles to fully recover their strength after an intense workout.
If you don’t give your muscles the rest they need to recuperate, they will basically just keep attempting to repair themselves, rather than build new muscle mass. The muscles can become exhausted and you may fail to see the results that you wish to see.
But overtraining isn’t limited to the weights room. You can also overdose on cardio. Yes, really.
The human body (whilst designed to be far more active than is usual in today’s sedentary world) was also not designed to endure high intensity cardio over long periods of time.
During long periods of high intensity movement, your body begins to produce and release the stress hormone, cortisol.
Cortisol is an evolutionary survival relic of our caveman ancestors (we can blame ‘em for a lot), produced by the body when it perceives itself to be in danger. It thinks that you’re on the run from a great big saber-tooth tiger who is ruthlessly tracking you down in the woods.
So, it spares available glucose from the brain, which generates new energy from stored reserves and diverts energy away from things that it perceives as being a low immediate priority, like immune system function, in order for you to survive imminent threats or prepare for intense physical exertion.
Unfortunately, too much cortisol in your blood stream becomes toxic and starts to detrimentally affect your health.
Thinking that you may not be able to eat or drink for a long period of time because that saber tooth tiger’s two steps away from you, cortisol actually encourages the body to hang on to fat and water, both of which are essential for survival in high stress situations, to give the body energy and hydration.
It especially holds on to the fat around your stomach and your butt. But that’s not all.
Over-production of cortisol can result in high blood pressure, loss of bone density, depletion of lean muscle mass (the very thing that encourages the body to burn fat and keep you shapely), and can even affect fertility in some cases.
And you thought going like the clappers on the treadmill for an hour seven days a week was the healthiest thing on the planet. Guess again.
How do I know I’m overtraining?
Exercise is awesome and it’s meant to make you feel good.
That runner’s high, that lifter’s rush?? You get that for a reason.
And when that feeling stops? You get that for a reason, too.
Some of the physiological signs of overtaining can include:-
Decrease in performance
Inability to gain muscle mass
Loss of co-ordination
Prolonged recovery times
Elevated resting heart rate
Elevated resting blood pressure
Frequent or recurring headaches
Loss of appetite
Frequent muscle soreness/ tenderness that doesn’t go away after a day or two
Decreased immune system
Increased risk of injury – like back pain, knee injuries or shin splints
Disturbed sleep patterns
You feel exhausted all the time
You find yourself unable to keep up with your regular workout routine
In women – disruption of menstrual cycle, causing periods to cease altogether
There are other signs, too. Overtraining doesn’t just affect you physiologically, it can affect your mental and emotional wellbeing as well. Signs include:-
Depression and/ or anxiety
A feeling of apathy
Difficulty concentrating on other things
High emotional sensitivity
Feelings of extreme guilt and anxiety if you accidentally miss a workout
Loss of enthusiasm for exercise - you don’t work out because you want to, but because you feel you need to
We all have days when the last thing we want to do is put on our sneakers and workout. And you’ll hear me repeat ad nauseum that the best cure is get out of your head about it and just show up anyway.
But when that feeling of obligation to your gym is a recurring theme – and you’re exercising every day, or several times a day, even to the detriment of your health and/or social life - maybe it’s time to take a bit of a breather.
Who knows? It may actually be the very thing to bust your plateau!
But I need to build my habit of working out every day
I hear you! Did you know it only takes 21 days to build a habit you're likely to stick to long term?
However, just remember you don't have to go balls to the wall all 21 of those days! At least once a week (maybe even twice a week) schedule in a day of "active rest", where rather than an intense workout you do enjoy recreational movement or restorative movement like yoga.
This way you're still building the habit of getting active and staying consistent without overtraining.
Some ideas for your "active rest" days could include:
Going for a walk in the park
Going for a leisurely swim
Taking a yin yoga class
Doing some deep stretching
Playing a game of football or backyard cricket with your family
Going out dancing with your girls (just mind the cocktails)
Work on your favourite active hobby (a team sport, tennis drills, dirt bike riding)
It's great to pour your everything into your fitness journey. Just remember - you can't pour from an empty cup.
Slow it down, breathe deep, stretch those strong muscles of yours, and take time to replenish your energy.
What's your favourite way to enjoy an active rest day? Let me know in the comments.
Okay, now onto the Captain's Log for yesterday.
D'oh, I slept in again this morning. I'd slept terribly the night before and drifted off to sleep just as the sun was coming up.
This always happens on the full moon! I cannot sleep for the life of me. Does this happen to anyone else?
Anyhoo, by the time I woke up I was running super late for work, so I quickly raced downstairs, grabbed a cuppa and a few Weet Bix with honey and coconut milk, and dashed back upstairs so I could log on in time.
Sheesh. That was a close one.
I love having a fast healthy breakfast on hand for mornings like these so I'm not tempted to order something deep fried and covered in chocolate from Uber Eats, especially when I haven't slept well, which plays havoc with fat and sugar cravings.
Lunch yesterday was, I promise, the last day of ham, tomato and cheese toasted sandwiches (for a while). Honestly, this fact makes me kind of sad.
They're more of a winter thing, anyway, I guess.
P.S. Can you peep my stalker in this photo? As soon as I start making food, my Chihuahua Tinkerbell magically appears in a puff of pink smoke.
Won't eat her dog biscuits but if I'm eating it, she wants it. I guess she thinks she's people.
I'm looking for some healthy lunch ideas for next week. Do you have any suggestions? What have you been loving for lunch lately?
I finished work late last night and was so grateful to have leftover chickpea pumpkin curry and rice left over from the night before. Dinner was done in the blink of an eye, and after today, those slow release high fibre carbs were exactly what my body needed.
Greg, bless his heart, bought me a treat - a four pack of rose cider. I've never heard of it before.
One 375 ml bottle is worth 2.1 standard drinks - way too heavy for yours truly, but I had half of one, and saved the rest for tomorrow. It was SO delicious.
For dessert, I felt that a tablespoon of Nutella paired just beautifully with my rose cider and Bridgerton, so I went for it. I've just got into Bridgerton and I'm actually obsessed - are there any other fans out there?
Yikes, so I didn't get to work out until quite late last night but I was determined to stick with my progress and show up anyway. I managed to get in this amazing boosted walking workout by Leslie Sansone - if you're new to aerobics, her workouts are a great introduction.
The moves are simple, the workouts are accessible and I tell you, by the end you feel like you've run a marathon. They're great! Especially helpful if you're in quarantine or lockdown and can't go outdoors for your workouts at the moment.
Okay, glam babies, well, it's Friyay night, I'm excited to finish work and get my Pizza Friday on! But first, let's all huddle up for today's motivation message.
What's holding you back from enjoying your fitness journey is your expectation that each moment has to be done "perfectly" in order to count or to get you results.
If you don't deliver on your self-expectations, it can be easy to feel defeated, or give up, or feel like you have to start over.
But whatever you did, or didn't do, that didn't go to plan WAS perfect. Why?
Because that's what happened.
If it was meant to go any other way, it would have.
Every "bad" thing that happens throughout our journey isn't there for us to stumble over. It's for us to learn from.
So we can get better. So we can get stronger. So we can manage it like a pro next time around.
You don't learn anything or get stronger from the moments that go well - those moments are there to motivate us and build momentum.
But the moments that don't go well are there to teach us, to grow us, to shape us into the people we were always supposed to grow into.
This is ALL happening for you. Keep going.
I believe in you.
Until tomorrow, keep shining bright
Save Some for 'Ron
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