I used to (regretfully) be a part of team #nodaysoff. I prided myself on being so disciplined to wake up in the morning and get a 5 mile run in before the day started.
Overtraining not only left me with lackluster body composition results (hello, skinny fat!), but I felt like absolute garbage.
But the truth is – it was a cycle I had a hard time breaking. When I was 18-22 I went through a pretty drastic weight loss (about 50 lb) , and having dealt with insecurities as a kid – I was nervous that if I “skipped a day” I would wake up the next morning 50 lb heavier (😂 aren’t the lies we tell ourselves so ridiculous sometimes?).
I was forced to change when an overtraining injury (sciatica) left me barely able to walk let alone power through my 5 miles runs.
I became a personal trainer and started to actually understand the science behind weight loss and changing body composition. I realized that not only was my cardio programming just WAYYYYY too much, but without giving myself a day off – my body literally had no time to repair itself.
So often we think that nutrition and workouts are really the ONLY things that matter when it comes to losing weight and reaching your body composition goals – but truth is – without taking the proper time to rest – you are going to be selling yourself SHORT of the best possible results you can get.
Here’s the thing. Exercise is a form of STRESS on the body.
And I know what you’re thinking…
“But Jaime, my 5 boot camp classes per week are a form of stress RELIEF”.
The thing is – your body doesn’t know the difference between sprinting in your boot camp class and sprinting from a bear. The same hormone response is induced once the body begins to perform the activity.
We have part of our nervous system called the Autonomic Nervous System and it is responsible for all things that happen “unconsciously” (breathing, releasing hormones, digestion, heat beat regulation etc). And we have two parts of that system – the Sympathetic side (aka “fight or flight” which is responsible for doing things like increasing heart rate, respiration etc), and our Parasympathetic side (aka “rest and digest”, responsible for digestion, relaxation etc).
When we are overexercising, dealing with the normal stressors of life etc – this system can become TAXED and we can create an imbalance between the Sympathetic and Parasympathetic systems and we start to live most of our days in a Sympathetic State.
Does your day sound like this?
Wake up, get ready, get the kids ready, get to work, handle work/meetings/appointments, eat lunch at your desk, workout, cook dinner, do more work, go to bed …. all without taking a second to breathe.
Think about how a day like this feels so NORMAL or if it’s not something you experience – think of people in your who might be living this way.
If our body is in a fight or flight state most of the time, not only are you eventually going to wipe yourself out (this is how adrenal fatigue/dysfunction happens), but you are going to have an even harder time shedding body fat and building lean muscle tissue.
Here’s the thing – when we are in a chronic Sympathetic state – the Parasympathetic processes slow down or cease to perform. This is why if you are under a lot of stress you may notice you get sick more often or notice your digestion might be off.
And when the body is under a chronic state of stress – the LAST thing it’s going to want to do is give up body fat. In fact fat = safety and survival. BUT want to know what the body IS willing to give up if needed? Muscle tissue.
Pause for a second because this could be the VERY reason you aren’t seeing results despite working out 6x per week and having “perfect” nutrition habits.
Let me say it again so it sinks in ….when dealing with chronic stress – the body does NOT want to give up fat and is more likely to “give up” muscle tissue.
Similarly to shedding fat, the body needs ample REST (and healthy hormone production) to be actually able to build lean muscle tissue (ladies this is what gives us the sexy, lean and sculpted look!).
Think about your training routine. Do you lift weights? Lifting weights creates small “micro” tears in the muscle fibers. When the body RESTS it is able to repair these tears – this is what makes us stronger and helps change our body composition. If we do NOT give the body rest – the tears cannot efficiently be repaired.
Again – this is another reason why you might not be seeing the results you feel like you should be!
Perhaps you’re reading this blog and thinking to yourself “Ok, but I take rest days”.
I want you to sit with that for a second and ask yourself if you REALLY feel like those are rest days or if you are just resting from the gym yet running around doing every little thing?
Rest is NOT just about taking days off (although as I’ve mentioned throughout the article – rest days are VERY important).
Rest is about committing to doing things that RESTORE you and make you feel relaxed. Rest is about doing things that do not ignite a “stress” response but instead get you to feel more peace. This can mean taking 10 minutes out of your day to sit in the sunshine, or going for a LEISURELY walk when you get home.
I get that implementing REST can be hard if it’s something that you are not used to – and truth is many of us feel “guilty” about taking the time we need for ourselves. Rest is such a VITAL aspect of reaching our body composition goals and our wellness goals. If you are struggling with the mindset aspect of it – check out this post I wrote on how you can give yourself PERMISSION to rest and what you can do to start implementing it today 🙂
Do you implement rest days as a part of your programming? Do you stick to it? Let me know in the comments below.