Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Why Rest Is Important For Your Exercise Goals

It's that time of year again: Time for New Years Resolutions! It's the time when so many people decide to get healthy, get fit, and set some exercise goals for the year. So it might seem odd that we're starting off the year talking about rest - but it's actually an important factor for achieving success with your fitness regimen this year.

English: BALTIC SEA (May 23, 2007) - Lt. Steve...
(Photo credit: Wikipedia)
When you get started on a workout routine, you want to keep it going strong, but you have to remember that it is possible to do too much.  Working out as much as you can, for as long as you can, and as hard as you can, is more likely to get you injured than in shape.  Our bodies require regular rest to heal and to function optimally.

Every time you work out, you create damage in your muscles and other tissue.  It’s often too small to really notice, but it’s still there - that's why you get sore after a workout.  Resting your body allows these tiny injuries to heal themselves.  If you don’t get enough rest between workouts, these tiny problems can add up to a larger, more serious injury.  Rest also gives our muscles time to build themselves, so if you never get adequate rest, you won’t see significant improvement.  Not only should you take adequate rests between each individual workout, you should also alternate light and heavy workouts during the week, and have a much lighter week every 6 weeks or so. 

In addition to just “taking a break” between workouts, you need to get adequate sleep at night as well.  Not only does sleep help us rest and relax our brain, it also allows us to relax and repair our bodies.  Not getting enough rest will leave you sluggish, not at your peak performance, and will eventually even make you ill.  While it is recommended to get at least 7 hours of sleep a night, you should remember that each person is different.  Some need only 5 or 6 hours of sleep to function properly, while others may need 9 or 10 to feel refreshed.

Yoga (Photo credit: RelaxingMusic)
One type of rest people don’t usually consider when thinking about a workout is rest from stress.  A workout provides stress to our body, but it’s not the only thing that does. If we are mentally and emotionally stressed throughout the day, it shows physically.  If your body is in a constant state of stress, your muscles won't relax and heal, even when you’re just sitting still.  If you are showing symptoms of fatigue and feel overworked, you should try adding yoga, Pilates, or even meditation to your routine. These will truly relax your body and mind, and allow it to get the rest it needs - at the same time as giving you a nice workout! 

If you don’t rest between workouts, get sleep at night, or take the time to de-stress, you’re not only more at risk for getting hurt, you’re probably also pretty tired.  If you don’t feel like you have the energy to get out of bed in the morning because you’ve worked out too hard, chances are you probably won’t feel like exercising either.  By doing too much too soon, you’re actually likely to decrease how much you work out in the future.

So remember, working harder isn’t always better.  Set a plan to reach your fitness and exercise goals for the year, but remember to add rest time into your program. You'll end up getting more out of your workouts, seeing better results, and finding exercise more fun and enjoyable. Take the time to relax and let your body prepare for its next challenge.   
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