Last week my beautiful children did their best sharing and I ended up with a lovely strain of the common cold. Now it was nothing major, nowhere in the realms of 'man flu' (lord knows if that struck me down I would be incapacitated, bed ridden and completely unable to cope with life....). Sorry, I had to sneak that one in... :) I was however, seriously out of breath when teaching my fitness classes! I could feel my heart rate rapidly escalate and I felt like I had just completed a metafit 'finisher' after simply doing the warm up! Now once upon a time I would have 'pushed through,' which was often to my own detriment. But as I get older and undoubtedly wiser, I live by the adage - "listen to your body, its smarter than you are." I still have days where I oscillate between thinking "I'll feel better if I just go and do my workout" to "maybe I should just have a rest day"........? Now I'm sure many of you have found yourselves in the same dichotomy, however the more I listen to my body, the more I realise that there are lots of signs that alert us to that fact that we should be taking it easy. So this brings me to the point; when should you have a rest day?
If your resting heart rate is elevated . It is suggested that if it is greater than 10 beats per minute over your normal rate then you need a recovery day.
You're tired or have had sleep disturbances. These can be signs of over training as it is believed your central nervous system is overstimulated from chronic attempts at healing your body. Poor quality or lack of sleep exacerbates over training as without enough sleep, things like immunity, cognitive function and endurance will decrease. It is thought that 2 rest days can quickly restore this.
You're always sore! You shouldn't be feeling constantly sore -a little bit of muscle soreness is normal however studies show that if you're still sore 72 hours post exercise you need to rest! Muscle soreness 24-72 hours post exercise is normal so watch out for delayed and continued pain.
If you've had a few bad workouts in a row. Feeling as though you were sub-par in your last workout and then again in your next? Time for a break - your body can't keep up with this pace!
When you find you're plateauing. When we're increasing strength and endurance and building muscle, we are in an 'anabolic state.' When we over train, we can go into a 'catabolic' state which is where we are breaking down muscles through micro tearing. This is the point where you may feel you are not improving and may need to rest or change up your workouts.
Ok, so now you're all stressing thinking I really want to keep working out regularly but maybe I have some signs of over training? Well here's some things to consider. What does your current regime look like? Do you have a lot of diversity? The FITT principal has been around for a long time in the fitness industry which refers to:
F- frequency - how often do you exercise?
I- intensity - how hard you exercise?
T - time -how long are you exercising for?
T- type - what kind of exercise do you do?
So when applying this to different styles of training - how much and how often should you be working out? What is abundantly clear is that there is no 'perfect workout.' If you want to build muscle, you will obviously do more weights than cardio and on the contrary, if you want to improve cardiovascular fitness, you will do less strength and more cardio. Below are some examples of the FITT formula you would apply for strength, cardio and stretching. Now obviously you wont put the whole lot together and do 3 strength, 5 cardio and 5 stretching sessions per week - you would have to be a professional athlete or have a lot of time on your hands!! It is however, a good example of timings and maximum sessions you should be doing. So take this into consideration, remembering that VARIETY is key! (source stretchcoach.com)
FITT for strength:
Frequency - 2-3 times per week but not on consecutive days
Intensity - Depends on the weights you lift and the amount of reps. For example the heavier the weights the fewer reps and on the contrary, the lighter the weights the higher the reps.
Time - If the intensity is high, the time will be less however if the intensity is low, you can spend more time on your workout.
Type - a combination of free weights, resistance bands, body weights and machines are a great cohort of strength training tools.
FITT for cardio:
Frequency - 5-6 times per week
Intensity - easy to moderate, 60-75% max heart rate
Time - anywhere from 30-60 minutes
Type- Any exercise you can do continually such as running, swimming, cycling, rowing etc etc
FITT for stretching:
Frequency- 5-7 times per week. When done properly, stretching is very relaxing and therapeutic and so can be done everyday if you feel like it!
Intensity- slow, easy and relaxed
Time - anywhere from 15-60 minutes
Type - static or passive
Some interesting data which is a great reference point for you to decide how to best approach your fitness regime. I must also add that the most common mistakes in exercise programming are training too hard (resulting in over training or injury) and not including enough variety. Performing the same exercises can result in long term repetitive strain injuries to the same muscle groups and neglect of others. For example, if you're only running, you tend to recruit the quadricep muscles and neglect the hamstrings - research shows that most recreational runners have quads that are 30-40% stronger than the hamstrings. This is the reason why so many distance runners have hamstring complaints. Something to ponder.........
So what to take away? Apply the FITT principal to your workouts and ensure you have variety as well as adequate rest days? Are you displaying any signs of over training? Do you need to have more rest or possibly swap a cardio session for a yoga/pilates session? Do you feel as though you have muscle imbalances - for example are you quadricep dominant? Muscles work synergistically together to enable you to move in the most efficient way, so if one group is stronger than another your functionality is compromised. As fitness instructors we want you to be able to exercise regularly and without pain and most of all, we want you to enjoy it! So don't be too hard on yourself, a rest day will actually make you feel better and subsequently improve your performance in your next workout..... :)