This post is a continuation of our Rest Blog mini-series: What is rest?
6 signs that you need more rest
The confusing part about exercise rest is how much and when - and the answer is not simple and depends on your personal fitness level. Knowing what your body needs and what helps you get to your optimal level of performance may take trial and error, but here are some key indicators that might suggest it might be time for you to rest.
- When your performance slides
Are you unable to lift as much as last week? Are you noticeably slower than you were the other day? Your body may not be given the space it needs to recover properly, which is why you are seeing your progress taper off.
- You have lost motivation
Emotionally we need a rest day, as well. If you are feeling burned out or bored with your exercise routine, it might be time to change things up - take a few days off, or try something new.
- You have little nagging injuries that just won’t get better
Our immune systems are working over time to repair those muscle tears or joint strains. If the body isn’t given enough time to recover, our immune system does not have a chance to repair it. You may also notice you are more susceptible to getting sick, which is another indicator of you needing some time off because of the strain that overtraining puts on immune systems.
- You are beyond sore
Overtraining can result in excessive soreness. There is a difference between being “productively sore” and “prohibitively sore”. Productively sore is when you can tell that you worked out the day before, but it doesn’t limit your ability to perform normal daily activities. If you have been working out for a while, you may actually look forward to feeling this way. It is a good indicator that you trained with the proper weights and/or intensity the day before.
Being prohibitively sore means that you have debilitating soreness that lasts for several days. Are you having trouble getting up from the couch or walking down stairs (like I was after my first half-marathon)? Then chances are, you are prohibitively sore.
It is crucial to rest when you feel this way to avoid injury, as well as to avoid becoming burned out from dealing with too much pain. While extreme soreness can happen, it should not be happening to you very often. This type of soreness is not required for strength gain, and may be counter-productive to your overall fitness goals, particularly if you are relatively new to working out. The line between these two can be tricky, though, and only you know how your body feels to make that call.
- When you have hit a plateau
Have you noticed you aren’t losing weight anymore? Are you not building muscle the way you had previously? That may be because you have too much cortisol in your system from overtraining.
Cortisol is a hormone that regulates our body’s functions when it is faced with prolonged stress. When we stress ourselves with too much exercise, we release too much cortisol into the body, causing increased appetite, weight gain, and a decreased ability to process the amino acids we need to build muscle. Might be time to decompress for a while.
- You aren’t sleeping well
Overtraining puts our nervous system into overdrive, meaning it cannot simply “calm down” at any time of the day, and certainly not at night. If you find that you are getting up several times a night, unable to fall asleep easily, or are restless in general, it may be time for a few rest days.
Next Week - Do's and Don'ts for a Productive Rest Day