Nothing affects your fitness routine as powerfully as how you help your body meet your goals
In fitness, the worst thing you can do is work out hard after a poor night’s sleep. The second-worst thing you can do is not rest enough during your workout. And the third-worst thing is to not rest enough after your workout.
Fitness is not a technique or new fad—or a machine. Fitness is a request: We are asking our bodies to adapt. Some of us want a beach body and others want to run a marathon. The good news is that the body is designed to move and adapt. Given the right conditions, your body is in it to win it.
Exercise Is a Stressor
It’s important to remember that exercise is a physical stress on the body. Without this stress, the body has no reason to change. Fitness is a measured, specific stress that tells your body that it needs to change to meet these new demands. You are literally tearing your muscles apart just enough for them to rebuild stronger and become more flexible. But it is still stress—and too much stress is detrimental to your health.
Each of us has a tipping point when we experience too much stress and the body switches to survival mode governed by the sympathetic nervous system. This tipping point is an accumulation of various kinds of stress: mental, emotional, physical, and chemical. So, if you are responding negatively to something you have eaten, had an argument with a friend or loved one, or haven’t slept well the night before, you need to approach your next fitness session with patience and caution; lengthen the rest periods, lighten the weight, decrease the sets, and bring down the intensity to a more moderate level.
It is very easy to work yourself to exhaustion and push yourself past your tipping point. This can deplete your body, compromise your immune system, and make you more vulnerable to disease, injury, and a loss of mental clarity—the opposite of your health goals. You can run into the same problem if you are not taking adequate rest breaks during your workout. And if you do not rest enough after your workout, you are also vulnerable. Your body wants to adapt; it just needs the energy and time.
More Does Not Equal Better
Our bodies adapt to different types of physical stress differently. If you lift heavy for fewer reps, the body knows the muscles need to get stronger, denser, and tighter. Once you can surpass those reps, the body will realize it needs more muscle fibers to adapt to this new demand. This is known as body building or muscle hypertrophy (which also requires eating more protein). If you decrease the stress (i.e., dumbbell weight or inclined walk), you will be able to go for longer, and then you are training muscle endurance. Each of these different intensities require different time periods to recuperate before you’re ready to keep exercising. Too little rest with continued stress, and you can reach your tipping point.
Improper rest is most dangerous during your exercise routine, as it will affect your coordination and your exercise form will deteriorate. This will stress your joints instead of fully leveraging them to get the most out of your muscles. Improper use of your joints over time leads to sprains, strains, and injury.
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A Simple Thing You Can Do
That you have exercised is more important than how much you have exercised. While there will always be more studies on how much rest is best, we can’t all become physiologists. But we can become experts in ourselves. Use your rest wisely.
TyzenFit.com (the business I run with my wife) incorporates “centering in tune.” This involves relaxing your tummy through diaphragmatic breathing, calming your heart, and focusing your mind on your body. Make your breath progressively slower and even; you want your breath balanced and slow. This is an excellent way to put yourself to sleep, as well.
Don’t worry if you feel like you don’t do it well. If you patiently and consistently practice, you will improve, guaranteed. This technique improves the quality of your rest, releases unwanted stress, and keeps you in tune with your body. When you are listening to your body, you will know if you have rested enough. And if you listen to your body, you have a much better chance of your body listening to you when you ask it to change.
Zenon Dolnyckyj is co-owner of TyzenFit.com, an online health and fitness coaching business.
This article was originally published on Radiant Life Magazine.