Rest and Recovery Days

A lot of folks think that they need to do MORE MORE MORE to lose weight, gain muscle, or achieve performance/athletic goals, and yes, we DO want to exercise, but people forget that exercise is also a stressor on the body. 

To clarify, we WANT a stress response after we exercise – that’s how our bodies adapt, change, and improve. A problem arises when we add that stress response on top of stressors like work, school, significant events like a wedding or a move, kids, bills, relationships, etc. It all adds up. Our bodies can’t differentiate between stressors, it just knows that it’s stressed out. That sustained and elevated stress response 7 days a week puts us in a chronic sympathetic, or “fight or flight”, state – and that’s when shit can hit the fan.

Our CNS can't fully recovery, our glycogen stores aren’t topped off, and our muscle tissue doesn’t have time to repair. Our bodies can even break down muscle to make more fuel to keep up with the demands we're placing on it. And that fuel can get stored as fat because our bodies are stressing the F out, think a cheetah is chasing them, and doesn't know when they're going to be "safe" again. So – that fancy program you’re following? You likely would get MUCH more out of it if you put in as much effort into your recovery as you are into your workouts.

Signs you’re overtraining and need more rest:

  • Changes in HRV,

  • Increased resting HR and sleep resting HR,

  • Sore all the time,

  • Can’t finish workouts/decreased performance in the gym,

  • General fatigue throughout the day,

  • Always getting sick,

  • Unexplained weight loss/weight gain,

  • Feeling “puffy”,

  • Changes in appetite,

  • GI issues like bloating, constipation, and diarrhea,

  • Mood swings,

  • Loss of motivation/drive,

  • Lower testosterone and elevated cortisol,

  • Increased creatine kinase,

  • Loss of libido,

  • Insomnia and sleep disturbance,

  • Pretty much feeling like a burning pile of crap.

Resting involves taking REAL rest days – not just active recovery days. A day where you just relax. Running a 5 or 10K on your “active recovery day” doesn't cut it.
So chill out. You’re not going to gain 5lbs by adding in a rest day. You’re not going to lose 5lbs off your 1RM in the gym. Look at your total stress and manage it appropriately. Prioritize sleep. And see how much MORE you can do by doing a little bit LESS.

Author: Megan Markoff, Black Iron Nutrition Coach, @meganmarkoff