LESSONS one and two were about some basic nutrition concepts, cardio and strength training. Lesson three is about three more things that have a considerable bearing on health and fitness but are not considered as important…even though they are:
Recovery or rest days are so often overlooked. People get all motivated for whatever reason and decide they’re going to work out seven days a week. I’ve done it myself, many years ago, after a break up (It’s called “the motivation effect”)…Funny thing is I got into better shape when I STOPPED training seven days a week and trained smarter instead of harder.
In VERY simple terms we aren’t actually building muscle when we exercise, we’re breaking it down. When the broken-down muscle heals and repairs, as we rest, it grows back a tiny bit larger and stronger. If you never take a rest from breaking the muscle down it never gets to fully heal and grow back bigger/stronger…Can you see the problem then with training hard seven days a week?
Can training be scheduled and split up into different body parts so that body parts get “days off” to recover while you train other things? Yes, but the reality is this isn’t needed for the majority of people and five days training is more than enough as a high-end goal.
I’ve written about sleep before (in fairness I’ve written about all this stuff before one way or another but there’s always new people to read it and there’s no harm going over it again) here’s a excerpt from an earlier article:
“Getting enough quality sleep can help protect your mental health, physical health, quality of life, and safety. The damage from sleep deficiency can occur in an instant (such as a car crash), or it can harm you over time. For example, sleep is involved in healing and repair of your heart and blood vessels. Ongoing sleep deficiency is linked to an increased risk of heart disease, kidney disease, high blood pressure, diabetes, and stroke. It also can affect how well you think, react, work, learn, and get along with others.” (US NHLBI)
A good place to start with sleep is “sleep opportunity”. Sleep opportunity means time set aside to TRY to sleep. Adults need between seven and nine hours of sleep per night. Count back AT LEAST seven hours from your wake-up time and go to bed at that time (if not before). Turn off the TV, put down the phone and actually try to sleep. Waking up tired as a result of chronic sleep deprivation might be normalised in today’s world but it isn’t normal or healthy.
We can only take so much stress, physical or mental, before we start to break. For this reason reducing stress through healthy means should be a priority for anyone looking to really advance their health and fitness.
Being under large amounts of chronic stress is not somehow noble and it definitely isn’t healthy. It doesn’t make you a better person. It can make you sick and it will severely hamper some health and fitness pursuits (like fat loss or the pursuit of adequate sleep, see above).
Being stressed can also result in us developing less than healthy coping mechanisms. Many people stress eat, or turn to alcohol (even in small amounts), and some spend their evenings sedentary on the sofa binge watching tv shows to escape from their reality (not getting any exercise) to destress after a hard day. Some people use exercise to reduce mental stress, which is great, just remember exercise is a physical stress and you can only take so much of that too.
Reducing stress at its source would be the ideal, being proactive about it, but if that really isn’t possible then working on developing healthy stress reducing behaviours for reactive use should be considered as important as getting regular exercise and eating right.