Sssshhhhhhh… do you hear that? Your body is talking to you. It talks to you all the time.
It tells you when it is tired. It tells you when it is hungry. Those days when you hit the gym and you just have no energy whatsoever, your body is talking to you then too. Sometimes it pays off to ignore the signals and power through, especially if you’re the type of person who lacks motivation. You probably shouldn’t listen to your body if every time you want to hit the gym, it tells you it would rather sit on the couch and eat potato chips. But if you’re highly motivated, you’re diligent and consistent, perhaps to a fault, learning to listen to your biofeedback, learning when to change your approach, ease up or back off entirely can be the difference between getting amazing results, getting mediocre results, and avoiding overtraining and injury.
Overtraining and Injury
Yeah, yeah, yeah I know, I know. Everyone thinks they’re “overtraining”, its become a bit of a buzzword and frankly, a bit of a wank in a lot of cases. But the fact is, that in a periodized training program, proper rest and recovery is planned from day-to-day, week-to-week and month to month. You don’t go all out hard every training session, every week, all the time. That’s flat out the wrong way to go about things. I know there are certain niches and subcultures within fitness that have glorified all out intensity, all the time (you know, pukey, uncle rhabdo… we know who I’m talking about), but that approach is flat out wrong. You have rest days (yes, and sometimes two or even three in a week!) and proper “deload” weeks and phases of training that might last longer than a week that aren’t high intensity at all. So if you aren’t thinking about your training in those terms and instead, pushing as hard as you can at every single session, you probably find your results are very hit or miss, you have constantly nagging aches pains and injuries of varying degrees and not the results you’d expect for the effort you’re putting in. Your body needs its recovery periods to repair, rebuild and come back better, stronger and more prepared.
(That’s what being fit is all about, are you prepared and “fit” for the task at hand? Well, are you?)
Through personal experience and in working with hundreds of clients over the years, I can tell you everyone does better and gets better results on a well-thought out program, with planned recovery and rest. Proper rest allows your body to be fully recovered and prepared to push yourself to the limit when it really matters – on your likewise planned high intensity sessions and where it matters most, in competition.
The Log Book – Not Just For Workouts.
A lot of people log their workouts, and that’s a valuable practice I always strongly encourage. But what about the other elements of that going into your training and fitness? Like your food, your sleep patterns, your water intake… when you have a bad workout… do you usually know why that might be? Do you just train “really hard” and eat “really healthy”, but if I ask you for specifics as to how you train, when you take days off, and what you eat, amongst other variables, are you going to be the type of person to um and ahhh and tell me it changes every day, but you can’t really tell me how?
If this is you, you aren’t serious about your training or getting results. And if you think you are and you’re putting a huge effort into “training really hard” every day (which probably means you go to the gym and train to exhaustion, doing random exercises for 1 – 2 hours per day), then you’re spinning your wheels.
For example, several years ago, I discovered I train MUCH BETTER when I have high fat breakfast. For me, whether carbs were present didn’t make a difference, but it was important that I had at least 10 grams of fat in my first meal, then I would power through training that day. If my meal was carbohydrate dense with low to no fats, training that day sucked. So, oatmeal and egg whites were not optimal, but oatmeal, egg whites and a tablespoon of coconut oil did the trick. This is what works for me. I discovered this by logging all variables like meals and meal type, sleep and time of training to workout that the main factor in was the type of breakfast I had (followed by sleep quality and also, how many days of consecutive training I had done already). Of course, there’s quite a lot of information out there that suggests a high fat breakfast is the way to go to optimise training, but I don’t follow this practice because of that information – I follow it because I took notes, listened to my body and figured out that was how I perform best. It’s nice that there is some science and literature to back up my practices, but it works for me and my body and that’s why I do it.
Common Sense… Not So Common!
Some people might tell you to use your common sense when it comes to training and fitness. There is an art to listening to your body, and sometimes the signals can be distorted, especially since we get mixed messages about what we should be doing, how to train, how to eat, just do it, no excuses… the catch phrases are endless. So I can’t blame you if you’re reluctant to simply rely on your instincts and common sense. You’ve been told over and over again not to. But I’m here to tell you, if you’re at all in doubt, fall back on your common sense, and not the extreme or over-the-top prescription that can come from a lot of so-called experts, trainers and self-styled fitness authority figures.
People talk about willpower, and yes, to have success and reach your fitness goals, a lot it is merely making a decision to eat better and exercise and then doing the damn thing. I completely agree with that. Suck it up, buttercup! Ooops, another catch phrase. A little “stick-to-it-ness” and yes, willpower is required and will get you over the line. But, for example, when you’re training every day and your whole body aches, your joints are clicking and squeaking, your muscles are screaming and you feel that kind of overall deep fatigue where you could just melt into the ground on the spot, that might be a day where instead of forcing yourself to train again as planned, maybe you listen to your body and take an unscheduled day off and stretch or get a massage?
Just a thought.
Think about this: you aren’t going to lose any gains or results from all the previous consecutive days and weeks of hard training just because you took a day of full rest that your body was telling you it needed. In fact, you’ll get more work done and be able to train at a higher intensity when you get back to your program. And as far as fat loss goes, your diet should be doing most of the work, so a day off with dietary adherence (i.e: that means you stick to it!) is not going to set you back in any way.
Do you believe in listening to your body? How many rest days do you typically take in a week?