Should You Take an Extended Rest Break from Exercise?
The “no days off” crew would have you believe that the only way to get in shape is to exercise every day without a single break. And while that may make you feel like a superhero in the short term in the long term it can really negatively impact your health.
Exercise is a stressor. Every time you lift weights you create tiny tears in your muscles. Whenever you do cardio you’re jamming your joints. Over time you may start to notice that you can’t quite lift as heavy as you used to. You may not feel like you can spend as much time on the treadmill. You might notice that you’re achy all the time even though you took a rest day (one stinking rest day). The reason is that every time you push yourself at the gym your adrenal glands go to work to shoot your heart rate up and fire up your muscles. To accomplish this they release adrenaline and cortisol. You may recall that increased cortisol (aka the stress hormone) has been linked to such things as increased fat retention, inflammation, and increased blood pressure. Moreover, the more you tap into your adrenal glands the more you wear them out over time.
I’ve recently noticed that I have been experiencing what I like to call Exercise Burn-out. At first, I thought it was just because I was stressed out from wedding planning and lacking adequate time to train until I went and looked back at how long I’ve been working toward my fitness goals consistently. Five months! That’s longer than some athletes’ entire seasons. My motivation was shot. I had seemed to have plateaued even though I was still trying to push myself. I had stopped losing additional body fat and I was tired but unable to get a good night’s sleep. Not to mention, that my brain was scoffing at every healthy plate of food I put in front it.
Experts call what I was experiencing cumulative fatigue. It happens to everyone at some point during their fitness journey and is likely to happen over and over again during the course of your life. The stress of the exercise you do accumulates over time on your body and your body will ask you in some nice ways and then in some not so nice ways to rest. It’s at this point that I recommend you listen and rest! Experts say you need at least a couple of weeks of zero training to reverse cumulative fatigue. They promise that the two weeks you take off is not long enough to lose any fitness gains, especially if you’re nourishing your body with clean whole foods.
If you ignore your body’s pleas for rest you run the risk of getting sick more often, putting on more weight, and getting the blues. Coaches tell their athletes to rest after a long season. You may not feel like an athlete from just your daily workouts at the gym but if you move your body then you’re an athlete. Your conditioning may not be as high as that of a world-class athlete but that’s just more reason for needing an extended rest every few months.
But I’m sure you’re thinking, ‘Grace what the heck am I supposed to do during those two weeks I take off?’
- Keeping eating healthy but allowing for an occasional cheat meal.
- Get a couple of massages, even if you’re the kind of person that doesn’t like to be touched like me.
- Go for leisurely walks in the evening.
- Dance all over the house.
- Pamper yourself: bubble baths, facials, skin treatments, hair treatments.
- Binge watch that tv show you’d been meaning to get to.
- Read a few good books.
- Go to bed early.
Before you know it you’ll be feeling like a million bucks and the personal bests will be coming one after the other.
I’m currently on an extended rest break because I got to the point where I couldn’t bear to lift one more thing. I felt guilty the first few days before I realized that it was perfectly okay and a necessary part of a healthy and balanced fitness journey. I’m getting married in nine days and I’m gonna look like whatever I need to look like in this season of my life. I figure I still have about 50 years to look my very best ever. There are still abs in my future.
That being stated make sure you’re following me on Instagram ( @realgraceshines) because I will still be doing a reveal of my full progress up to this point on Saturday, April 21st. There may be a bikini involved…eek!
Let me know in the comments if you’ve experienced Exercise Burn-Out and what you did about it. Did you keep pushing through it or did you give yourself some time to recover?
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By the way you look fabulous!