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Paige Waehner

Exercise and Weight Loss Lesson of the Week: Rest Before You're Tired

By May 30, 2012

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I've talked about exercise advice before and the fact that giving it is often a bad idea, even if asked. Like the time a bartender, who found out I was a personal trainer, asked how to get rid of the fat around her belly. Right after that, she took a big bite of a fried chicken wing dripping with grease. I suggested that, perhaps, the chicken wings could go, after which she spit in my drink (well, I didn't see her do it, but from the look on her face at my comment, I'm reasonably sure that's what she did).

However, one piece of advice I've never forgotten came from a fellow trainer who told me: Rest before you're tired.

Initially, I thought this was a pretty stupid idea (the fact that I was in my 20s and didn't need much rest plays into that). Why would I want to rest if I'm not tired? There's too much to do! But, over the years, I've come to appreciate the meaning behind those words which, is essentially, finding balance.

To often, we operate at extremes. We're either 'on' or 'off,' with no in between. And, for many of us, we stay 'on' until it's either time for bed or until we're so exhausted, we have no choice.

The same can be true of exercise, pushing our bodies hard because we don't want to waste time. We either go big, or we go home.

The problem with this mentality is that we often miss the nuances of both our physical and mental health - The tweak in the knee here, the ache in the back there, the subtle signs of mental burnout - Clock watching during workouts, procrastinating with other activities, finding excuses to skip our workouts.

These nuances are the first warning signs that we may need a break - physical, mental or both. Ignoring them or working so hard they go unnoticed, is what often leads to the Bermuda Triangle of Exercise: Overtaining, burnout and injury.

Thinking about your exercise life, do you ever push too hard, only to wish you'd paid more attention? Do you take the time to rest before things go too far? Leave a comment and tell us about how you find, or need to find, balance between exercise and rest.

May 31, 2012 at 1:34 am
(1) TrainerMike says:

Great advice! Listen to your body and have planned rest periods. Balance is definitely the key to long term results.

May 31, 2012 at 1:32 pm
(2) KRWilliams says:

I love your column. Thank you for all the good advice. Paying attention to the little “nuances” is something I strive to get better at, since not doing so has cost me in the past.
I really enjoyed your comment about giving advice. It reminded me of a health fair I participated in for class credit (I am a nursing student). The focus of our presentation was diabetes, a huge and burgeoning problem in the US these days. It sure seems like people just want a magic pill or elixir. Even the slightest change in their eating and motion activities-which is actually easier and less costly than medical intervention-caused their eyes to glaze over, as they quicklly moved away.
My advice for avoiding diabetes? “Eat better and move more.”
Keep up the good work!

June 1, 2012 at 4:40 pm
(3) K H says:

What I used to do in 60 minutes in my twenties. Now takes me 70 – 75 minutes, including three 3 minute breaks (half hour or so of resistance training, 3 sets each on 4 different machines and 30 minutes straight through of an aerobic activity). I really need those breaks these days but I feel great after I finish all of it. I like your advise about rest & balance. I don’t feel quite so bad about getting old.

June 4, 2012 at 1:55 am
(4) Alessandro says:

I have just turned 40 and have missed about a month of training in the past 6 months due to injuries. These injuries could have been avoided if I didnt overdo my training when I body was crying out for rest. Unfortunately as you get older, your body requires more rest between intense work-outs. I have taken some advise from a fitness trainer who advised that when I feel some aches and pains in my body I should either take a days or substitute my planned work-out with a medum-paced walk.

June 5, 2012 at 10:10 am
(5) lazermario says:

I am 28 (not quite old right?) and I insist on a 15-20 minute nap every afternoon as a physical and emotional reset for my system. If I am extremely busy traveling, I will rest in transit if necessary, but I know that if I am not modest about my energy levels in my youth, I will pay for it later. I’ve noticed that others in my age range and up who don’t make this commitment usually get very irritable or at least fatigue in the evening… not me. :)

As for resting from exercise, I always try to differentiate between normal muscular exertion and mental and physical exhaustion or injury. If I start to experience one of the latter, I’ll postpone or even cancel the routine for the period I feel is necessary for the damage to be repaired. It is rather egotistical to do otherwise, and you’ll regret it in the long term.

June 11, 2012 at 6:31 pm
(6) softballhead says:

Hm this actually makes sense. Today I took my weekly rest day… because I had absolutely no energy. I was totally prepared to power through it anyway, but then I realized that I had done a crazy hard workout yesterday and I could use the break. Even if it’s killing me not to work out today.

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