Yes you’re addicted to working out. Admit it. That’s the first step to recovery you know? “But I can rest whenever I want!” you exclaim. Oh yeah? So why is it you’re doing HIIT sprints for 3 hours and calling it a rest day? You took a nap? That’s not a rest day, that’s just awesome. But it’s not a full on rest day. You pulled a groin muscle but you’re still in the gym trying to squat a PR.
DUDE. TAKE A DAY OFF. THIS IS AN INTERVENTION.
When you’re full on into your training a rest day can feel like the absolute worst thing since Mondays. You sit at the window like a Kermit meme wondering if you’ll ever have gains again. Or you mentally start freaking out like one day off will get erase months worth of progress. Get over it. Last I checked you’re not Robocop and even Robocop needed some downtime to eat baby food or have weird spastic dreams. But at least he took some downtime.
Thing is, even if you’re Alpha-Robot Fitness God, you’re hurting your Alpha-Robot-Fitness God self by not taking 1-2 days off during the week. In fact, it can be EXTREMELY capitalized and detrimental to your health to not take a rest day. Lack of proper recovery makes you hit the dreaded plateau wall. Do you have a girlfriend or boyfriend? They’re probably wondering why they haven’t seen you in two months. Have you called your mom lately? No? You mean you didn’t even go see that one movie you wanted to see for the last year? C’mon man!
Think of it this way. Unless you’re Jay Cutler you have no reason to train 7 days a week. And you wanna know something else? Jay Cutler did only three things while training for a show: Eat, Workout, Rest. So you’re just trying to look and feel good you need to back the F up. This 7 days a week thing isn’t going about things the right way. It’s like balancing out a relationship. You’re only in the gym (in bed) one hour a day with training (having sex with your partner) so you need to make sure the other 23 hours are using the time wisely and effectively to make sure all stays good in the hood.
If you don’t rest, you won’t experience the strength, power or endurance adaptations that you’re bothering to train for in the first place. Without adequate recovery, your musculoskeletal system, nervous system, and immune system become compromised, which puts you at a greater risk for injury, illness, weak lifts, and, frankly, a piss-poor attitude. Your body’s hormonal response to the deterioration of these systems is often a state of sympathetic arousal—your “fight or flight” response—which floods your body with high levels of catabolic hormones like cortisol. None of these things are good for growth.
So let’s get our labcoats on for a second so you can be convinced I’m not a dope talking about this. During sleep, solid 7-8 hours of “balls out awesome” sleep is when your Growth Hormone (gH) is at it’s highest. This is when physiological improvement takes place. And this is another reason eating clean and consuming proper supplements while training is important too.
Sure, training like a beast conditions the body. Badass workouts will improve efficiency of the heart, increase capillaries in the muscles to bring greatest amounts of blod floow and increase glycogen stores and mitochondrial enzyme systems within the muscle cells aka YOUR SWOLE BRO.
So during a recovery period this all works together and these systems build to grand levels to compensate for the stress you have put your body through. Now you’re at a more improved level. But if proper recovery time is not given, your body won’t be able to regenerate. Ever wonder why after training 761 days in a row people complain they look flat? Well dude or dudette, it’s because your body will store less glycogen when you overtrain. This imbalance between too much training and not enough rest will just cause overall performance to decline.
So what are signs, besides the above, that you’re overtraining? Physical symptoms can include an elevated pulse in the morning (no shit), or consistently high blood pressure levels. Throw in a jacked up immune system, increase in injuries, constant fatigue, loss of focus, decreased sex drive, mood swings, depression, insomnia, emotional distress…any of this ringing a bell yet? Yes. BURNT OUT. That sums up the feeling of going overboard with training.
One of the worst parts of this is something we’ll touch on many times in the future. A study done somewhere by someone in some lab or college (trust us) found that overtraining jacks up the body’s CORTISOL levels and DHEA. These are the body’s long-acting stress hormones and are antagonistic to each other. DHEA has an anabolic influence, while cortisol has a catabolic (tearing down) effective. Normally these two are in harmony and riding on unicorns together.
But when one gets too high or low, bad shit goes down. During chronic overtraining, the body will produce WAY more cortisol than normal, and reduce the amont of DHEA. Too much cortisol can cause you to crave a lot of carbs at night, make you feel like crap and tired as hell all the time, then jack up your cholestrerol, decrease your seretonin levels and lead to depression, deplete vital nutrients and vitamins in the system, so on and so forth. From my experience, if you’re overtraining and trying to bring your cortisol levels down, you’ll get trapped in a loop of “I need sleep to bring these levels down but the only way I can bring these cortisol levels down is with sleep but I can’t sleep because I can’t bring down my cort…” GET IT YET?
Put the weights down for a day or two. Your body is screaming at you for REM sleep. To get it, take a day off already. Take two.
First off, take two days of no activity. If you can, do some calm yoga and help stretch your body out or get a massage. Also, reduce your caffeine intake as it can raise your cortisol levels and dopamine levels as well. If you’re already taken a preworkout that has any caffeine in it, you’re probably taking in too much. Considering it stimulates the same neurotransmitters as herion, it’s probably why we’re all addicted to it. Take a L-Tyrosine supplement to help get it it under control. Check what you’re eating and eliminate sugars and simple carbs for a bit while of course upping your veggies and protein sources. Another thing to help with sleeplessness is a Cal-mag supplement at night. This is something we’ve tried and had great results with.
In short, or long, and what a read this is… We love to train. we love the gym. We love lamp. And we wanna love the gym for a long time, injury free to keep our bodies in tip top shape. The workout is half the battle, the rest is the other half and an integral part of the whole eating well and recovery phase of getting yourself in the shape you desire. Never turn your back on a rest day. Chances are, your gains will thank you for it.