Are we getting ahead of ourselves here? I mean, just last week we were talking about starting a program and staying consistent with it and now we’re on to how you shouldn’t be overdoing it! Well, this one is for those who have been in the fitness game a bit longer and have already established their consistency. You’re at that point where you’re showing up for yourself every day in some form or staying on track with a set number of workouts per week. But, you may be putting in long and very intense sessions with the hope that it gets the job done – building muscle, losing fat, leaning out….whatever the goal. That’s why we need to chat about how much is too much!

First, let’s make something very clear, that not many people may know – your body repairs and builds muscle (aka gets the job done) on REST DAYS. Yup! While you are working out, you are tearing muscle fibers that will then repair when at rest. So, when we think that we are being the ultimate athlete by going hard every day and not factoring in a quality rest day/days into our week, we are doing more harm than good. Rest days are essential in allowing our bodies to adapt to our new training regimen so that when we get back at it, we are energized and can lift the same/heavier, go more intense on cardio etc. Without rest, the chances of overtraining, fatigue and hitting a plateau are elevated.

Second, what does your training program look like and how long have you been working out? Are you doing full body workouts daily or splits (legs, shoulders and arms, back and bi’s on separate days)? Depending on how you schedule your sessions, will dictate how much rest you need – either a full day between intense sessions or perhaps two days. If you are now starting out, getting more than one rest day in would help your body recover faster and begin to adapt to more challenging programs. However, as your strength, and endurance grows, 1 rest day may become sufficient.

Third, females need to be cognizant of scheduling rest days around their menstrual cycle. During the follicular phase, or first phase of the menstrual cycle, it’s best to incorporate the most intense types of workouts that you enjoy. However, as estrogen and progesterone levels fall (if you are not pregnant) during the later phases of your cycle, you will feel the effects with reduced energy and so should plan workouts that keep you active but where you can manage your energy well – brisk walks, light cycling, swimming etc.

In order to feel like we are accomplishing what we want in our workouts without overtraining, a helpful suggestion would be to include compound moves. These incorporate more than one move and so burn more calories, build strength and allow you to work more muscles in a shorter period of time. Win-win, no? Some compound movements can look like a side lunge into a bicep curl, for example, where both the lower and upper body are at work. By hitting 10-12 reps of these movements followed up by other compound moves, you’ll find that within 20-30 mins you’ve accomplished a thorough workout that has left your muscles feeling fatigued and primed for growth. So, the next time you think about staying for 1-3hrs in a workout session, thinking more is better, think about if you’re doing too much, how you’ve been scheduling your rest days and if you can shorten your workouts by adding in compound movement.

Remember, we are in this for the long haul – no quick fixes! If we accept that consistency is the key and that meaningful movement done consistently over time will bring us to our goal, then there is no need to overtrain or over do it!

Till next time…

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