I’ve been particularly sensitive lately to the whole “No days off” vibe. Even unintentionally, I feel like every box I’ve been to lately (and, maybe, ever?) just exudes this. Go hard. Push yourself. No pain, no gain.
It’s true that in order to get stronger, you need progressive overload. In other words, as you get stronger, you need to make your workouts harder. Otherwise, you’ll just stabilize. Your body will adapt to the weights and movements until it’s just like a stroll in the park unless you keep increasing difficulty.
No Sleep Til
I get it. For many coaches’ clients, they might be new to the gym and we need motivational language to help them achieve consistency for their goals. For people being introduced to fitness for the first time, it’s even more important to teach them how to know when it’s time to work out – and when it’s time for a break.
Our bodies need sleep, regardless of whether or not we live an active lifestyle. (But especially so if we live an active lifestyle.) In many ways, strength is built while you’re catching Zs. As you sleep, your body goes into repair mode. When strength training, your muscles are actually “damaged” with little tears that are then healed and built up even stronger to adapt to its stimulus (a.k.a. your training program).
What happens if you don’t give your body that time to recover? Quite simply, it doesn’t get better. You have a harder time with your workouts. Easy weights start to feel heavier. You’re always tired. Lacking motivation. And, more generally, it can start to affect your overall health as your immune and hormonal systems suffer.
No Pain, No Gain
Most coaching programs don’t teach recovery. Most clients don’t ask for recovery. While there’s a ton of information out there about the importance of rest and recovery, it’s not incorporated into the average lexicon of coaches and teachers.
The language we currently see around rest is extremely negative. T-shirts like “No days off” portray this 100%, all the time, go hard or go home mentality. For athletes, this can manifest as a fear of taking time off, feeling guilty for not wanting to work out, overtraining, and, ultimately, susceptibility for injuries.
A coach’s responsibility is to guide their athletes towards their goals. Whether that’s simply to feel healthier or to compete in a competition, there’s still going to be rest involved. There’s no way around that. So it’s important to be educated about it and incorporate it into your programming.
Finding a Balance
One of my favorite resources on rest and recovery is Laurie Christine King’s website. She’s a big advocate of focusing on encouraging general movement every day, and a believer that 3 to 5 days is more than enough in the gym for most people. Not to mention the fact that that can vary over time, depending on other needs and life stressors.
My preference is to do something “intense” every other day or so, depending on how I feel. Post-move, I’ve been going a lot less, but I usually feel best when I have the chance to go to the gym about 3 to 4 times per week.
If I’m feeling particularly sore, I will do “active rest” only because I know that not moving at all can make the soreness worse. Otherwise, I truly just rest. Rest is not something that we often give our bodies, truly. Between working out, life stressors, poor sleep quality, and so on, it’s just as important to work on resting.
I often encourage myself, and others, to keep this in mind when life gets busy. If I’m going to bed at midnight, waking up at 5:30am to walk the dog and make it to my Crossfit class, am I really setting myself up for the best? Sometimes, the wisest fitness decision you can make is hitting snooze – literally, in bed, or figuratively, on your practice.
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So much of my view towards this is influenced by the injuries and issues I’ve been working through. I also know I’m not alone. I’m – slowly, but surely – finding proof that no pain doesn’t always mean no gain. The more I rest, the better I perform.
The happier I am about it too.
Life is stressful enough. Unless you’re coaching elite-level athletes – in which case, you’re probably already working with a team to work on their sleep and supplementation – keep it simple. Encouraging your clients to listen to their bodies and set reasonable goals is a skillset that will do them good in life.