Often in the health and fitness environment, those that are seen to be training at their maximum intensity for as many sessions as possible within the week are thought to be ‘machines’. They are looked on by others as really fit and healthy and that are invincible…this however is probably the exact opposite, those ‘machines’ are probably slowly but surely breaking down!
Top athletes that are competing on the highest stages will tell you that they have something called a ‘periodised’ programme. This is where their training regime is organised into phases with a specific aim in mind. This helps the athlete to perform at their best when they need it the most, during their competitions. Each phase will be further broken down to show what they should be focusing on, what intensity they should be working at, and the required rest and recovery time. Yes-a lot of the tip top athletes will spend a significant time focusing on resting and recovery in order to return to training/performing ready to go again!
So, if the elite performers consider this as an important element of training, should those that want to see health and fitness improvements at a lower level not be doing so too? Yes, the athletes of us will probably push our bodies so close to their maximum that they may require more resting time, however rest and recovery still remains a very important part of anyone’s health balance. By building recovery time into your training programme you will allow your body to adapt to the stress of exercise, but it will also allow your energy stores to replenish and repair any damaged tissue. Not incorporating enough rest into your training could cause you to undo any of the health/fitness benefits you have been working up to. You may feel constant muscle soreness, pick up lots of little ‘niggly’ injuries and illnesses, elevate your resting heart rate, feel irritable and depressed, lose sleep, and ultimately lose motivation to train.
I would therefore advise you to plan your training week as best as you can. Don’t overly stress yourself out about training so many times a week, if you miss a session try and make up for it the following week. If after so many weeks you feel you could push yourself more, gradually increase the number of days you do train. If you aim to train on certain days try to vary your focus, some sessions you may want to lift lighter weights, depending on your goals. In group sessions use others as motivation to push yourself, however don’t do this to the point where your technique starts to suffer. Regardless of your fitness goals, make sure you are resting up and are always honest with yourself and your body.
Only you know how you physically and mentally feel, if you think attending a session today will not benefit you then try and get some rest, or chose to do some active recovery-these might be lighter intensity days where you try to stretch out more. Always ensure you are eating/drinking enough to allow your body to withstand the demands of your exercise.
Don’t train hard, train smart!