Rest is one of the most often overlooked components of staying in shape. It is hard to know when to work through pain, and when to listen to your body and back off and rest. Rest usually isn’t even considered a component to staying in shape. But rest is essential if you want to continue to exercise.
How much time should you take off? Do you take the time off completely? Will you lose conditioning if you take too much time off? These are all valid questions that can be hard to answer, even if you know about exercise.
I know about exercise and I know human bodies. And I still have trouble knowing when to take time off from exercise. Occasionally I train with a good friend who is a personal trainer. She has to tell me when to back off from exercising, and I have to tell her when to back off and take time off from exercising.
If you rest too much, then you’ll never be able to get into shape. If you rest too little, then you will set yourself up for over trained muscles and potential injury.
If you never take time off from exercising, then your muscles will get over-trained. Working them day in and day out with no breaks will cause the muscles to get tight and inflamed over time. When the muscles are tight and inflamed, they are primed to be pulled, sprained or injured.
I have seen it many times in my practice. I used to work on a blocking back for the Pittsburgh Steelers. He had the largest calves I have ever seen. The reason why he came into my office was because he tore (a severe pull of) his calf muscle. He tore his calf muscle when he stepped into a hole and tripped.
How can a professional athlete, who has taken too many hits to count from 300-pound defensive line men and not been injured, get injured from tripping in a hole in the ground? It was because his calves were tight, irritated, and inflamed from being over-trained. The muscles were over-trained and he was primed to pull or tear his calf muscle. This happened during training camp, which is one of the hardest times of the year for a football player. They are trying to get back into shape after being off for a few months. And most professional football teams do not ease their players into football shape.
This happens to non-professional athletes as well. I worked on someone who was working out 5 to 6 days a week. She was alternating between power yoga and weight lifting each day. Even though she was taking a day or two off per week, it was not enough. It was too much on her body doing power yoga and weight lifting on back to back to back days. She was working the same muscle groups on back to back days and not giving her muscle groups any time off. It resulted in bad neck and shoulder pain and mid back pain with tingling and numbness going down into her hands.
It took a year of consistent work to really get this patient’s muscles out of these patterns of spasm and inflammation that had been building up for, and getting more ingrained into her system over, the past few years. I had to loosen up the muscles and get them out of the patterns of spasm and inflammation while she backed off from exercise. I was able to resolve the pain in her neck and shoulders and the tingling and numbness in her hands. She then had to revamp her entire workout routine. She no longer works the same muscle groups on back to back days. She is doing much better and has much less pain on a regular basis.
Working the same muscle groups on back to back days will not provide any benefit. If you work one muscle group on Monday, then don’t work the same muscle group on Tuesday. Working the same muscle group on back to back days will cause the muscles to get tight and irritated. Doing this over and over again for months on end will cause the muscles to get so tight and irritated that a minor motion will cause them to tear and become injured.
Rest is kind of like stretching. It will not get you into shape, but it will allow you to keep yourself in shape to exercise. If you are not resting or stretching enough, it will only be a matter of time before you injure yourself and have to take time off from exercise. If you are getting the right amount of rest and downtime, or if you are stretching enough, you will only notice a lack of symptoms, very little to no pain, and good energy levels. But if don’t stretch enough, and don’t rest enough, then you will start to feel tightness, irritation, pain, lethargy, fatigue and eventually injury.
You just can’t keep going hard all of the time. If you do, then something will give. In your workouts, as in life, we want a balance between going all out hard, and going easy. We just can’t expect our bodies to go hard all of the time. If we do, then something will give.
I practice what I preach. I always take at least one day off per week. I also am careful about not going hard every day that I do cardio-vascular exercise. If I bike 3 days a week, I make sure to spread the workouts throughout the week, and I make sure to mix them up so I am not doing the same thing every day. One day I’ll go for a moderate pace. Another day I’ll go for a longer, low intensity ride. The last day I’ll do short bursts of intensity with a minute or 2 of rest thrown in.
In the Pain Free Lifestyle program, at the beginning, you will be doing the same cardio-vascular workout for 3 days a week. But it is not intense, and is set up to ease your way into cardio-vascular exercise. As you get into better shape and get more comfortable with exercising, the workouts will start changing and becoming different each day.
In my exercise routine I plan workout blocks. One block is 4 weeks long. During the first week I usually do 10 hours of exercise total. Then the second week I do 12 hours. The third week I do 14 hours. Then the fourth week I will do 4 to 6 hours total to give my body a rest. Then I start back over at week 1.
You are better off taking time to let your body heal so that you can exercise at 100% without having to watch yourself. If you are not at 100% then you will have to hold back and not be able to exercise as well or as intense as you would otherwise. You are better off taking an extra day to let yourself heal. You can’t exercise if you are injured.
It is important to be consistent with exercise. You will not get any benefits from exercising or eating right if you don’t do it with consistency. Be consistent with your rest. Your body needs time to heal. The older we get, the longer it takes us to heal. We are not 20 years old anymore. We do not heal like a 20-year-old. We have to train our bodies appropriately.
The Pain Free Lifestyle has rest built into it. It allows you to get into exercise with the proper amount of rest and the proper amount of stretching and the proper amount of exercising, for someone who hasn’t exercised in years or for someone who is in pain. Exercise and proper eating is the best way to feel better and increase your activity levels. It is the Pain Free Way.