Relax! And get fitter in the process
When it comes to getting and staying fit, it’s not all about working out. It’s about resting up, too. You need to give your body recovery time between workouts to repair and build muscle. If you don’t, you’ll not only suffer from workout burnout, you could end up with some serious health issues on your hands. So in the spirit on National Relaxation day, we thought we’d get to work at putting some of the common anti-rest myths to bed.
“To stay fit, I never stop exercising”
Tsk, tsk. If you think you need to hit the gym like a maniac every day to stay fit, you’re wrong. You only have to look at elite athletes and sportspeople – they’re in peak condition because rest is part of their regime. While they’re taking a break their bodies are hard at work building up strength, endurance, and muscle mass. They know that powering on will only get in the way of this process, and ultimately do more harm than good.
It’s good to love working out. It’s great to live an active lifestyle. But you’ve got to know when to chill out, too. That means not making intense workouts an everyday thing. If you do, you’re likely to end up with injuries like muscle strains, tears or stress fractures – not to mention prolonged side effects like disturbed sleep, fatigue, and hormonal imbalances from sheer exhaustion.
Depending on the intensity of your workout and your age, you should give your body a couple of days a week to recover from your workout sessions.
“My body tells me when it needs a rest”
That’s true, your body does give you signals that it’s tired and needs a rest. But usually only when the damage is done and you’re feeling the effects of burnout. So you need to do yourself a favour and give yourself a break before that happens – whether you feel like it or not. Even if you ‘feel fine’, there’s a whole lotta stuff happening inside your body that you can’t see or feel – you just have to be aware it’s going on and give it time and space to do its thing.
For example, weight and resistance training causes your muscles to tear (but not in a bad way). These microscopic ‘rips’ are the building blocks to muscle growth. But they need time to repair, rebuild and grow back stronger (not to mention the nerves and connective tissues around them). If you don’t, they won’t. They’ll just become overused and prone to injury.
Recovery time also gives your body a chance to rehydrate and replenish energy – two vital things your body needs at a cellular level to function normally every day. If you ‘push on’ without adequate recovery, you’re bound to hurt yourself in more ways than one.
“I don’t sleep much – I prefer to be active”
Being active is one thing. But not getting enough sleep is another. Getting between six to eight hours of quality sleep a night isn’t only crucial for post-workout recovery, but vital for overall health and wellbeing.
Getting enough shut-eye is a good thing because during REM, your body produces more growth hormones which help repair muscle tissue. If you don’t get enough sleep, you won’t produce enough hormones and all your hard work at the gym will be wasted.
But studies have also shown that hormone imbalances caused by sleep deprivation can disrupt normal metabolic function and appetite. So much so, that people who don’t get enough sleep (even for a week) are more likely to want to eat more and therefore gain weight – bad news if you’re working hard to lose it.
What’s more, there’s a scientific link between a lack of sleep and Type 2 diabetes. Starving your body of sleep causes insulin levels to drop, which in turn affects blood sugar levels. When your insulin levels are screwed up, you store more fat in all the wrong places, like your liver.
Switch off, take a break, enjoy a rest and let your body get on with recovering. Like most things in life, moderation is the key. Stick to a healthy approach to eating, a sensible workout routine, and make a good night’s sleep part of your regime. Taking a break isn’t lazy or weak. It’s the smart way to help your body stay healthy and strong.
– Team Anarchy45