The purpose of training or physical activity is to overload the body in order to gain improvements in strength, endurance, muscle mass, etc. Most people think that exercise is when we build muscle and become stronger, but actually it is the complete opposite. When strength training (ex. Lifting weights, body weight exercises, banded exercise) we break down muscle, creating micro tears in the tissues. It isn’t until we rest that the body can repair, rebuild and strengthen those muscles – this is known as adaptation. If we don’t allow our body to rest and recover, we can actually do more harm to our body than good – in the exercise world this is known as under recovery. What this means is that if we don’t give ourselves enough rest, our bodies will continue to break down, preventing adaptation and impacting our performance. Continually overloading the body without rest may lead to a decrease in training quality and the possibility for injury.
What are some signs of over-training?
- Decrease in performance
- Persistent fatigue – Constantly drained, lack of energy or motivation.
- Persistent mild muscle soreness
- Loss of appetite
- Poor sleep
- Sleep – We should be aiming for at least 8 hours of sleep every night.
- Rest Day – Avoid further loading for physical and psychological recovery. Example: Binge watching your favourite Netflix series on a Sunday afternoon.
- Active Recovery – Low intensity exercise such as walking, cycling, swimming or yoga.
- Proper Nutrition – What we eat plays an important role in how we train and recover. Be sure to talk to a Dietitian on how you can ensure you are getting proper nutrition to optimize your performance.
This idea of a proper work to rest ratio isn’t just for physical activity but can be applied to all aspects of life. Take school for example – as a student you often spend your entire day in class, frantically trying to take in as much information as you can. Once class is over, it is on to a late night at the library, cramming for those four midterms in one week, running only on energy drinks. Studying and going to class would be like training or working out. Staying up late and poor nutrition would interfere with your ability to rest. This cycle continues week after week and is what my classmates and I would call “surviving, not thriving”. In the end you continually stress and break down your body until it can’t function properly (ex. worsening test scores, persistent fatigue, sickness, etc.).
This February break I challenge you to not only get active, but take time to rest and recover. For myself I plan to sleep in, spend time outside exploring our amazing city, and end up on the couch watching my favourite show on Netflix. Rest and recovery can take many forms, but if we don’t make it a priority, we may never reach our full potential.
~ Alex, Physiotherapist