It is very often that young people in my gym would approach me and ask questions. Usually that would be teenagers around the age of 15-18. People who have recently, in a period of 2-3 years, started training. Athletes with a solid progress who have already developed a considerable amount of strength, being able to pull out hard moves such as The Muscle-Up, The Front Lever, The Back Lever and sometimes even more. But however all of them would have gotten stuck at one point getting confused as to what to do next. The main problem they encounter is hitting a plateau with their training. The reason as to why did they stop making a progress I will explain below.
During my workout years I approached most of my training alone. I am a solo player and I hate being taught, I would rather explore things on my own, I love empirical knowledge. Which inevitably led to a lot of mistakes related to my training, slower progress, sometimes injuries to mention a couple. But I regret nothing, I learnt a lot and took the responsibility for my actions. Now, like the teenagers I mentioned above I would allow one particular mistake to slip in at the very beginning of my training days. That would be the lack of rest days.
Naturally I would have seen athletes on TV working out and would have assumed that was what I had to do to become like them. And usually it goes like this, everybody speaks about this and that exercise, about this and that workout, you see motivational poster-quotes everywhere online today stating things like “A one hour workout is 4% of your day, no excuses!”. All said and done with the single goal to motivate us to get in the gym. Nobody, however, tells athletes that rest is just as important as the actual exercising. During my first years I would exercise all day every day. At the very beginning that does wonders for everybody. The first exercises that you are going to get accustomed to are relatively easy, your body is still adapting to training and can handle it without much effort. However as you progress you need to learn to give your body an adequate time frames for it to recover.
1. Why should you NOT workout everyday?
Let’s talk about recovery. Recovery time is important because it is then when the body adapts to the stress from the new exercises and the effect from your workout takes place. Your workouts cause muscle tissue breakdown and during the recovery period does your body repair the damaged tissues as well as replenish the energy lost during the exercising.
And now here’s where the confusion comes from. Most people confuse complete recovery with replenished energy. Once they feel relieved from any fatigue and tiredness they assume they have to go back in the gym. Depending on their workout that might happen in the same day or on the day after. However even if your body has recovered the lost energy this doesn’t necessarily mean that your muscle tissues and ligaments have repaired and recovered. At first as I said it is not going to be a problem but after a while your progress will start decreasing more and more to the point where you are no longer making any. That’s the small problem. The bigger and more serious problem is when a joint, muscle or ligament will start hurting because you over trained them. Athletes usually don’t understand that the process of injuring that particular part of their body began much earlier and would usually attribute it to a recent exercise or workout.
2. How often should you workout?
Now there isn’t a general rule as to when and how often you should workout. Most people go by the rule of one on one – one workout day, one recovery day. In other words if your first workout for the week is on Monday then you are going to rest on Tuesday. Or your workout days will be Monday, Wednesday, Friday, Sunday, likewise your rest days will be Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday. After you are done with this week your next workout will be on Tuesday.
At one point with my training I figured no workout regimen works the same way for two different people. Which means you better experiment and explore a little on your own as well. Nowadays I go with my body, I try listening to it, when it’s tired it gives me a sign, when it’s recovered it gives me a sign as well. Sometimes I would consider a certain day to be a workout day. Then I will get on the rings attempt a particular move but feel lack of strength in my muscles and instead of pushing harder I will just take another rest day or two until the body is in good condition again. In other words I suggest you try working out using the “one on one” method but also encourage you to experiment with it.
3. What is a rest day?
Of course when I say rest days I don’t mean the rest day of the regular person. Spending the whole day in your bed or on your couch is not allowed. In fact you are not allowed to spend your whole day at home, even if you intend to clean or repair something there. You should actively enjoy your rest days. Outside, with your girlfriend, family, friends or even with your dog. Go out for a walk, for a jog, swim, ride a bicycle, the opportunities are endless!
Why is it important to stay active on your rest days? Because staying home for the whole day will make your mind and body sluggish. You should go out everyday at least for half an hour to keep your body going through physical activity. Thus remind it that you need it and it should not lose the edge of it. Also fresh air, nature and sceneries, meeting with people will keep your mind active as well. You need a vigorous mind in order to squeeze the maximum out of your body, taken that your body is also in an active state ready for a workout.
I want to remind you that you should NOT get carried away with being active. When I say that you have to be active I mean active to the point where it is not an effort for your body and you enjoy it. The best example would be going out to stretch your legs for an hour during the day.
Thanks for your time,