In our more-is-better world, it's easy to get caught in the over-training trap. But when it comes to your workouts, it pays to do less. I am certainly not telling anyone to quit exercising, but your workout schedule should have built-in rest days (and even weeks sometimes!). Not convinced? Here are 7 reasons why you shouldn't go to the gym every single day:
1. Your muscles grow when you rest. Lifting weights creates tiny tears in your muscles that can only repair during rest. This repair process is what makes your muscles stronger than before. While it's important to work your muscles (hard!) to stimulate muscle-building proteins, it's equally as important to give your body enough time to recover (usually until you're no longer sore).
2. Over-training can cause a weight-loss plateau. You know that working out too often or too intensely can lead to too much weight loss, but most people don't realize that it can also have the opposite effect. Thanks to your body's built-in protective mechanisms, over-training can cause a plateau in your weight loss or even weight gain (unrelated to increased muscle mass).
3. Trouble sleeping? You might be over-training. Needing excessive sleep to fuel your workouts or being unable to sleep, even when you're very tired, are both indicators that something is wrong.
4. Over-training can cause mood problems. Exercise can be a potent anti-depressant—studies show it works just as well as medication for mild depression. And we can attest to the mood-boosting power of the runner's high. But too much exercise can have the opposite effect, causing anxiety over workout schedules and depression from being chronically run down.
5. You'll feel exhausted… all the time! We all love the great energy burst we get from an awesome workout, but more exercise does not always mean more energy. If your workouts are regularly making you crash in the afternoon or drag through your day because you're so tired and sore you can barely move, then you're doing too much. Listen to your body. If it says, "I'm so sore that I dread sitting down to go the bathroom," the intense workout session you have planned might not be what it needs.
6. Over-training often leads to burnout. In the end, life is about balance. We all have limited resources—time, energy, money, physical reserves—and spending too much of them on exercise can lead to burnout. It's better to commit to a sane program that fits in with your schedule and goals than to go all out and want to quit after one month. Exercise is a lifelong pursuit, and it should make you happy. Find a balance that works for you—your body and your life.
7. Rest prevents injury. It’s common sense that resting is beneficial for injury reduction, but why? Well for starters, rest days prevent overuse. That extends from running to lifting and even walking. If you’re a regular runner, you know how much your legs and feet can take until you just need a day off. If you push it too hard without a break, your muscles and joints suffer from overuse and that’s where injuries can happen.
I hope you can all take away a few pieces of advice from this list. I know I can always use this reminder! It is easy to get into an over-training mindset, but in the long run it pays off to know your limits. and listen to your body. Schedule those rest days!