“Where is my rest muscle and how do I train it?”
“Rest days are the worst days”
The world of bodybuilding is one that is hard core and intense. The world of fitness can at times become one focused on superficial and unrealistic goals. They can become overwhelming to the average gym goer. They can also deter the average individual from ever even getting started. One of the common “bro-science” themes in both is that there is no such thing as a rest day. Workout and then workout some more until you reach your destination. We’re lead to believe that time away from the gym is time away from making gains. And in the event we’re wild enough to take a rest day, well kiss those gains goodbye and hello fat.
I think that we’re getting better at drowning out that wickity wickity wack noise. We have a bunch of smart minds in the industry preaching the importance of disconnecting from the gym occasionally. But the stigma remains and it’s always going to pop its head up. The fact is that this mentality leads to a very serious problem…
What?!? How dare you?! There is no such thing… Nope, it’s a real thing. So many of us become fixated on achieving our fitness goals that we grind, grind and grind some more. It’s also not just the physical aspect, but also the mental aspects. Mentally and emotionally we become tied to our goals and both drain our bodies in other ways. However, we neglect so many aspects that can lead to success and we see the gym as our only viable vehicle to achieve success. I can speak from experience because this was me and on occasion is me. I feels ya peeps. It’s tough sometimes to find the off switch and tell yourself that it will all be ok.
Overtraining though … Definitely not cool. And it should be reason enough to try your hardest to find that off switch. Because it can absolutely derail your train to GAINSville. From a physical, emotional and mental standpoint, at the very minimum, you should be taking 1 day off a week. And that 1 day off is just a day off from the weights or intense activity. It doesn’t mean sit on a couch and think about lifting. You can go out for a hike. Maybe do some stretching. Something that is active but at least has you moving a bit…
So why is overtraining so serious? Well, I thought you’d never ask. Lets dive into some of the signs that might start to signal you’re going down the Overtraining path.
Ongoing Muscle Soreness
- You need rest bro! If you’re too busy training all of the time and pushing your body to its limit, when are your precious muscles going to have time to recover? Muscle soreness is a common result from hard training sessions. However, if you continuously find yourself being sore for 72 hours plus, then you might want to consider taking a day or two off from intense physical bouts.
- You worked out super hard today so you should be tired and be able to just pass out, right? Well working out hard consistently not only takes a toll on your muscles but also on your central nervous system (CNS). An overload of our CNS and imbalance of stress hormones (looking at you Cortisol) can lead to less ZZZs aka less gains.
Getting Sick Often
- There is no doubt that proper training protocols have been shown to improve your immune system. Exercise has been shown to increase the production of macrophages, which are cells that attack the kinds of bacteria that can trigger upper respiratory diseases. However, when we start to approach overtraining territory, our body is in a constant state of fatigue, weakening our immune system. Additionally, as mentioned above, overtraining can create hormones imbalances and spikes in stress hormones (Cortisol) which can weaken your immune system. Be mindful if you’re getting the sniffles more often than not.
Prone to Injury
- This ties into a common theme, time to recover. Highlighted briefly above as you’re experiencing prolonged muscle soreness. You’re approaching your next workout in a weakened state since your body has not had time to recover. This could lead to poor form and performance, carelessness due to being tired which will cause injuries or the flare up of old ones. It can also begin to create poor muscle recruitment patterns that will lead to muscular imbalances that can have lasting effects on your quest to gains. Remember that you do not grow in the gym but rather through the sum of your efforts outside of the gym (nutrition + rest).
- Probably the biggest indicator that you’re approaching overtraining is a screeching halt to progress. Whether it is weight loss or strength related. Your theory of “the grind never sleeps” has caused radical changes in your body’s mechanisms. You’re not eating enough, you’re not resting enough, you’re not recovering enough. You’re continuously tearing your muscles but not allowing enough time to repair and create new muscle growth. You’re probably fatigued and out of sorts so you’re not eating enough. And you couldn’t get 6 – 8 hours of sleep even if someone paid you to. Progress plateaus – usually lasting for 2+ weeks – need a complete analysis of what you’re doing. Do you need to eat more, rest more, tone down the intensity? Progress, while slow sometimes, should certainly remain linear.