Work, rest, eat, and repeat. Those are the four words that can be used to summarize an effective exercise regimen, but how long can you keep those up? Everyone falls off of their routine sometimes.
Much like a cheat meal, time spent away from the gym is also crucial to your success and health. When you are working hard day in and day out, your muscles and joints are accumulating significant stress.
Think about it like a job. How long can you do your job without taking a break? I don’t mean waiting for the weekend, I mean taking an actual vacation and gaining back some sanity. A break from work is good for your mental health, and a break from exercise is good for your physical health.
So you’ve finally committed to an exercise program – or maybe you have been on one for a long time. At some point your body needs time to heal and recover from the strain of physical activity such as lifting weights, running, or whatever you are doing to stay fit.
I’m not talking about getting a full eight hours of sleep at night, although that is very important too! As a general rule, the body needs a break from exercise every 2 to 3 months.
During this time your muscle tissue, joints, and central nervous system will have time to fully recover. This is a great way to help prevent injuries, which can cause you to spend anywhere from a few days to a few months away from exercising.
It can also help to prevent over-training.
Over-training is essentially when your body stops making progress because you are actually working too much and not resting enough, or getting adequate nutrition. Sound familiar?…
I was very skeptical the first time I was told I should take time away from the gym. It can be difficult to make exercising a part of your daily routine at first, so why would I fix what isn’t broken? A little over a year went by, and I stopped making progress and going to the gym was just something I did – not something I enjoyed.
I took a week off without any exercising. By day three, I felt like I actually had more energy. I couldn’t hear it, but my body was screaming for me to make time to rest. When my week away was over, I craved getting back into my routine and felt like I had reignited a fire.
This may all seem so obvious – but exercise addiction can cause a tremendous amount of damage to your body, and even cause eating/body dysmorphia disorders (1)
You can define what kind of break you will take, as fitness is not a one-size fits all lifestyle – usually one week should be enough of a break. There are generally two different kinds of breaks that are recommended: you can take a week off from your exercise completely, or you can simply dial back your intensity.
As an example, say your normal routine is three sets of 10 for squats, bench press and rows followed by 30 minutes of cardio. Reduce your total lifting volume to two sets of eight per exercise at a lower weight and perform 15 minutes of cardio at a slower pace – and make sure you stretch!
Again, this is just an example and the general idea is to do less than you do on a normal workout. It may be hard – but your body and mind will thank you for it. Take the time out to remind yourself of your original goals and always remember to listen to your body, even if you’re due for a training day. Try not to get tempted!
Who doesn’t love a massage?! Well… these may not be the relaxing kind anyway. Sorry! The intensity of a deep sports massage, to really release the tension in sore, aching muscles can do you the world of good.
Massages are an excellent tool used to speed up recovery in every type of sport imaginable. Although sports massages can be uncomfortable, your body will reap incredible benefits, including loosening up your body from the tension built up as a result our hard graft. Just some of the benefits include:
– Muscular fatigue reduction.
– Elevate blood circulation.
– Stretch tense muscles/knots.
A valid part in the recovery process! It may seem less important to pay attention to your nutrition whilst you’re giving yourself some rest from the gym – however, taking a break from exercise is not an excuse to fall off the wagon. It may seem silly, but a lot of people do it.
Nutrition actually plays a huge part in muscle recovery – consuming the right nutrients can aid a speedy recovery by fully restoring your body from the physical demands of training. As a result you’re in for an energetic return to the gym!
There are tons of ideas of what you ‘shouldn’t’ and ‘should’ eat – keep it simple, make sure you
– Constantly keep hydrated.
– Consume vitamins and minerals.
– Enjoy meals based around the normal training – maybe slightly less carbs due to less physical activity!
– Lean protein, complex carbs, healthy fats.
Nourish your body!
Adjust Your Routine
Ask yourself, when was the last time you had time off from a routine? If your problem is getting into a routine, try to plan something fun in two months’ time. Tell yourself that you are going to be active doing whatever your choice of exercise is, and then you are going to have a week away from it with something enjoyable planned.
This can be something as simple as going to see a show, or a weekend trip with family and friends. Having something to look forward to can help you to stay motivated and consistent.
I have found rest and recovery to be crucial to long-term success with my own fitness. I still take a week away from weight training about every three months – I find that I am eager to get back to the gym and work out much harder after some time spent away. I have less injuries this way, and the injuries that I already have do not give me as many problems.
Just remember, consistency is the key to being healthy, but you should also pump the brakes every few months!