Too much of anything is never a good thing, even when it comes to exercise. In the same respect that committing to a training regimen is admirable, so is knowing when your body needs a break because, inevitably, it will. However, acknowledging the signs can be difficult, especially when training seems to be going so well and you start to feel physically and mentally stronger.
This blog aims to pinpoint a few tell-tale signs that your body needs a break so that you can decipher when it might be time to slow down.
1. Training starts to feel obligatory
Exercise should not feel like a chore. If it does, it is time to take a breather and re-structure your routine with the types of physical activities that you actually enjoy.
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2. Physical and mental fatigue
Sometimes when we have a lot of motivation, we can push ourselves past a breaking point and get injured. There is a key difference between being tired and being lazy. Key signs of physical fatigue include poor sleep, an inability to concentrate, and difficulty in performing day-to-day tasks.
3. An unusual heart rate
Both an unusually low and high heart rate can be indicative of exercise burnout. If you are struggling to elevate your heart rate during training or are seeing it skyrocket with minimal effort, it is time to take a break.
4. Movement patterns and form begin to suffer
Form is an essential component of any training in order to improve performance and prevent injury. When your body is exhausted from overworking itself, your physical form will suffer. Aching joints, extreme muscle soreness, and impeded flexibility are all signs of an overworked body.
5. Altered mood which impedes on day-to-day life
Overdoing it can make you feel extremely down and result in a negative outlook on life in general. A lack of interest in food or social life is a sign that you may be exercising too much and need to take some time off until your mood improves.
6.Workouts begin to take priority
It is not necessarily a bad thing if training is a priority. However, if the thought of taking a day off leaves you with feelings on angst then it has taken an unhealthy role in your life, and you need to take a break ASAP.
It can be difficult to strike the balance between working hard and working too hard but hopefully those pointers will be able to help. The bottom line is that rest and recovery should not be feared and should regularly feature in any training regimen. You will be amazed by what a well-rested mind and body can actually achieve.
About the author: Laura Smith is an elite level athlete who has been a Sundried ambassador since 2017.
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"Don’t ever be scared to take a day off or allow yourself time to relax, I’ve learnt that the hard way."
It’s no secret that training for multi-sport takes a lot of hard and time-consuming training, often meaning multiple training sessions per day. I started my multi-sport journey in 2014 when I joined the University of Birmingham’s Triathlon Team and my training load increased pretty quickly when I realised how much improvement I would have to make (especially in the pool) to be competitive in my age group, let alone amongst the elite field.
It took 6 months for my training load to progress to around 25 hours a week alongside my studies, as well as working as a fitness instructor and coach, and 8-mile commute to university by bike (which I stupidly didn’t factor into my training). I became fixated on the magic ‘25 hours’ and unsurprisingly I picked up niggles, injuries, and illnesses. Rest days were something I feared and the more training that I could do, the better.
I somehow managed this manic routine for three years while I was at Birmingham university and I had some amazing opportunities and experiences, including meeting my partner of 4 years and the selection for my first professional racing team, but I was not being kind to my body in the process.
In July 2017, I graduated from Birmingham with a BSc in Biochemistry and could focus all my attention on racing until I started studying Dentistry at the University of Manchester in the autumn. My season went well but as always, I wanted more. When the time came to take an end-of-season break, it triggered a pretty big relapse of an eating disorder which had been lingering in the background. Because I wasn’t training, I thought that I didn’t need to fuel and when I started Dentistry, things progressively got worse and worse. I won’t go into the specifics, but I lost a lot of weight and became quite unwell both mentally and physically. As always, I carried on training.
I had my best result to date in the April of 2018 and secured a bronze medal at the British Duathlon Championships, thus qualifying for the World Championships that summer. The combination of not properly fuelling throughout winter and a highly demanding race caused my body to break down. The next day, I couldn’t even walk… I had what presented as a stress fracture in my hip and I spent the next month on crutches, unable to get into university, let alone train.
Once I was able to train, I got back to it and focused on regaining some form of fitness for the World Championships. I knew I wouldn’t be going to Denmark in great shape, but I wasn’t going to miss the opportunity to represent GBR in an elite race. It didn’t end particularly well as I crashed during the bike leg and ended up being taken to A&E. I suffered pretty extensive trauma to my shoulder which took a while to heal.
Again, as soon as I could, I was back training and focusing on the next venture, but this time determined to do it the right way. I decided to seek out professional help and a coach that I trusted to steer me in the right direction. My training became more effective thanks to Dave Newport despite the quantity decreasing and my relationship with food improved. Although I was now training smart and fuelling well with the support of a nutritionist, I had already accumulated over 5 years of self-destruction and my body just wasn’t playing ball. For every two weeks of consistency, I would have two weeks of reduced training due to an injury or illness. It felt like a constant battle of one step forward and one step back. Physically, my body needed a break and mentally, I was losing the love for my sport. So, I made the difficult decision to take a step back to allow my body time to heal and my mind to reset.
I’m not quite sure how long my break from multi-sport competition and training will be, but when I do return it will be with a healthy mindset and recovered body. At the moment I am just enjoying fitness and incorporating activities like boxing, Olympic lifting, pole fitness, and yoga into my schedule.
I wanted to write this blog because I think that so many athletes can relate with the fear of rest and recovery. I know first-hand how easy it is to obsess over training hours and continue no matter what the consequences, often ignoring the indications of over training or fatigue. Illness, injury, loss of menstruation, sleeping difficulties, disordered behaviours around food and exercise, and a negative mentality are all warning signs that your body may need time off to heal and recover.
Don’t ever be scared to take a day off or allow yourself time to relax, I’ve learnt that the hard way. Your body is with you for life so take care of it!
About the author: Laura Rose Smith has been a Sundried ambassador since 2017. She was awarded the Yellow Jersey University Triathlon Scholarship and has competed at an international level in both triathlon and duathlon.
Over training is something that most athletes are likely to encounter at some point in their life. It can be tough to spot, but it's important to address. We investigate the causes, the signs, and how to solve it.
Causes of Over training
Over training is exactly what it says on the tin: when you over-train your body so that it can't recover properly. If you are training particularly hard for an event and limiting your calorie intake to try and get lean or lose weight, there is a high risk of developing the symptoms of over training. It takes quite a lot to get to this point, so it is more common in long-distance runners who are running hundreds of miles a month or bodybuilders who are lifting weights every day while trying to drop body fat than your average gym-goer.
If you are over training, you will be deficient in many of the vital vitamins and minerals the body needs to function properly and you will notice the signs but perhaps not realise they are due to over training as these symptoms can also be caused by many other factors.
Signs of Over training
Persistent muscle soreness
If you are feeling sore and achy for longer periods than normal this could be due to over training. Your muscles need time to recover properly and with the right nutrition.
Elevated resting heart rate
Keeping an eye on your resting heart rate is a great way to check that you're not over training. If your resting heart rate is elevated for more than 3 days, you could be over training. Most smart watches and fitness trackers will track your heart rate all day so it is easier than ever to keep it in check.
Increased susceptibility to infections
Over training will cause your immune system to become weaker so you will notice that you'll be suffering from colds more often and other low-level immune conditions. If you feel like you are always getting ill, it could be a sign of over training.
In the same way, you could also notice that you're suffering from injuries more often than usual as well. They could be little things like pulling a muscle or developing cramp every time you train, but these are all signs of over training.
Insomnia, or lack of sleep, is something that can be caused by a number of health issues. However, if you are also developing the other symptoms of over training, this one will be easy to spot.
Take a break
This is the most obvious solution but it's also the most important. It can be hard to allow yourself enough rest days, especially when training for an event, but it's so important to listen to your body and allow it to recover properly when you are training hard. Don't train muscles when they are already aching and don't push through injuries.
Reduce the volume
If you usually do 5 sets of an exercise, drop it to 2 or 3. If you usually lift 80% of your max, reduce it to 50-60% until you are feeling better. Reduce your mileage if you are a runner or triathlete. Ease yourself back into training full pelt when you are ready.
Increase calorie intake
If you are trying to lose weight or strip body fat, it may be tempting to restrict your calorie intake too much. However, a restrictive diet will mean you lose out on vital vitamins and minerals and this will lead to the symptoms of over training.
Listen to your body!There is nothing more important than being healthy and well. No race or competition should come before your health. Listen to your body and take it easy, you will see better results if you work together with your body rather than against it.
There is a lot of discourse surrounding cardio, weight training, and rest days. No two people will give you the same answer, and there is a lot of debate to be had. So should you be doing cardio on your rest days or not?
How important is a rest day in working out?
Firstly, the question of whether you should do cardio on rest days very much implies that you primarily train using weights, because if you were running or cycling as your primary training principle, you wouldn't consider doing even more cardio on your rest days. So let's assume you train 4 times a week lifting weights, which leaves 3 potential rest days a week. You may feel like not doing anything at all for 3 days a week will mean that you won't make as much as progress as if you were more active, but rest is just as important as hitting the gym!
When you are lifting weights, you are tearing your muscles. It is only when you eat, sleep, and recover that your muscles are repairing and growing back bigger and stronger than before. Therefore, taking a rest day is very important in working out. If you continue to train when you are feeling very sore and achy, you could potentially injure yourself and do more damage than good.
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How much should you rest between workouts?
This differs from person to person. If you have only recently started training or have started a new regime, your body will need longer to recover as it becomes accustomed to the stress and strain. The longer you have been doing a particular sport, the less rest you will need as muscle memory starts to kick in; it's important to mix up your training so that you continue to see results. As a general rule, you should not train a muscle group that is already aching. If your legs are sore, you could still do an upper body workout for example but it would not be wise to go for a long cycle or do a spin class. Listen to your body as that is always the most important thing.
So as for doing cardio on your rest days. That depends on your individual goals. If you primarily want to build muscle, you do not need to do cardio on your rest days. However, if you want to strip fat and keep your cardiovascular fitness up, it is recommended you do a light cardio session like a run or swim between weight sessions. You should always have at least one day a week where you do absolutely nothing though so that your body has a chance to keep up and fully recover.
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If you lift weights often and have a goal of building muscle, it may be useful to do cardio on your rest days. Follow our rest day cardio workout for an effective cardio workout that won’t affect your bodybuilding results.
Can I do cardio on rest days?
The short and simple answer to this is yes, you can do cardio on rest days. It is a commonly held belief that if you do cardio, you will ‘kill your gains’, meaning you will break down the muscle you have worked so hard to build. However, if you are smart with your training this won’t happen.
If your primary goal is to build a lot of muscle and you don’t mind being bulky, you do not need to do cardio on your rest days. However, if you want to stay as lean as possible, you may well need to incorporate rest day cardio workouts into your weekly routine. If you think you might be at risk of over-training, it is important to take a complete rest day so that your body can recover properly.
Should I do cardio on rest day?
The question of ‘should’ I do cardio on rest days is quite different, and this depends entirely on your goals. If you are a keen bodybuilder or powerlifter, cardio may be a scary concept to you. You don’t want to break down any of your precious muscle and you just want to lift as much as possible. However, if you find you are getting out of breath walking up the stairs, your cardiovascular system could be suffering, and it’s important to stay as healthy as possible, no matter what competition you have coming up.
In this instance, you probably should be doing at least a 30-minute LISS cardio session on your rest days from lifting. You can keep your heart rate fairly low, therefore minimising the amount of muscle you will break down, and it could help you stay healthier.
Rest Day Cardio Workout
Follow this cardio workout to achieve optimum results and to supplement your lifting schedule.
As with all training sessions, it’s important to warm up properly, even if it is only a low intensity workout.
Holding a wall or bar for support, swing your left leg in front and behind you 10 times, then repeat on the right leg.
Next, swing each leg from side to side 10 times. This will help to warm up your hips and groin, areas that can easily get injured if they’re tight.
Next, perform 10 calf raises to warm up your ankles and 10 torso twists to warm up your core. You’re ready to go!
On a treadmill, start by walking for 10 minutes at a 1% gradient at 5km/h.
Next, increase the gradient to 5% and increase your walking speed to 6km/h for 10 minutes.
Next, decrease the speed back to 5km/h and increase the gradient to the treadmill’s max, this is usually 15% on a standard treadmill. Walk like this for 5 minutes.
Finally, decrease the gradient back to 1% and increase the speed to 6km/h and walk it off for a final 5 minutes.
You have now completed a good 30-minute cardio session which was low impact and yet would still have worked your cardiovascular system well.