September 26, 2013As a health and fitness professional, I often get questions that have me torn between advice that’s “by the book,” and my honest opinion. Trainers are urged to stand by a script that — rightly — has us err toward caution to prescribe traditional training techniques so we retain clients rather than “push limits.”
I find myself offering the safer, popular opinion rather than sharing what is truer, personal advice — advice rooted in experience rather than a text book.
The current question-tussle is: How long should I rest between workouts?
A by-the-book approach will say you need ample recovery time from your workouts. As the adage goes “your muscles rebuild when the body is at rest, not in the gym,” and this is especially true for those who partake in weight lifting. Some weight training regimens might have you exhausting one area of the body to the point that it requires up to a week of workout recovery. Likewise, you don’t want to risk overtraining — exercising so much that it is counter-productive.
And that is the safe answer. At the fundamental level the above advice is true. However, my take is that you can, and should, exercise daily, and when you do you should exercise hard.
I’ve learned you don’t need planned rest periods. Fact is, the majority of us get enough daily rest, whether it is during work hours at a desk job, sitting in front of the television and sleep. In my opinion what we really need is a double dose of exercise.
Fear not that you’re overtraining; your body is an incredible machine that knows how to adapt to voluntary bouts of stress like exercise.
Adaptation is the reason elite runners can log upwards of 100 miles of weekly running. Adaptation is how professional athletes often workout twice a day, sometimes on game days.
But take it a step beyond the professional athletic field. Everyday professions require a great deal of manual labor. By every standard, construction workers, landscapers and factory working all fall in the realm of “exercise.” I’d argue many of these jobs are more taxing than most one-hour workouts in the gym.
Instead of rest days, try a variety of workouts that can be executed consistently and daily. Mix your methods of physical activity: one day focus on cardio, the next day is on strength and the following on balance and flexibility.
Better yet, find a workout which hits everything equally that can be sustained daily. Don’t overdo it on one muscle group because that’s what will require rest.
Then again, if your workout makes you too sore in a certain area of the body, that’s okay too but it shouldn’t keep you from a workout because there’s always something you can do for activity that would still allow that area to rest.
Adequate daily activity doesn’t have to come in the traditional forms of lifting weights, going to yoga or pedaling an elliptical, it can be also be achieved in things like yard work or house work, too.
Put bluntly: Don’t find a reason to sit this one out because there’s always a way around it.
My take is if you truly want results you must push your body to its limits, and that means getting as much physical activity as possible. Use different genres of fitness. Change it up. Keep it interesting. And when your body tells you to rest, do so, but until then…go like hell. Live well.
Mike Hackett holds a Bachelor of Science degree in exercise science and is an American Council on Exercise’s certified personal trainer. He is also the proprietor of Mike Hackett and Syphus Training LLC in St. Clair Shores. He can be reached at (313) 407-6656 or e-mail at Hack1913@hotmail.com E-mail Hackett with health questions or topics.