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No Pain No Gain - No Rest No Gain

Whether your goals are fat loss, improved strength, definition, function, endurance or health related fitness, understanding the principles of training volume and intensity are key to both success and results. Getting an adequate amount of exercise is absolutely one of the best things we can do for our body and our health as the benefits are endless. However, there comes a time when we can actually improve our results and our health by doing less of it.

Overtraining is something that most people may only associate with professional athletes and it's probably only a very minute percentage of the wider population that are truly overtraining. What is much more common, and a growing problem, is under-recovery which can completely hinder fitness gains in terms of strength, endurance and body shape. Ultimately it can sabotage the very results you are trying to achieve. I have to put my hand up and admit that I have been guilty of under recovery myself, but the wisdom of my years as a fitness professional has made me sit back and realise that no rest, no gain!

Many gyms are now offering back to back classes such as spin, combat, HITT, insanity, Grit, the list goes on. All of these sessions are very high intensity to help members think they are getting 'more bang for their buck'. There are an increasing number of gym members that are attending 2, 3 or even 4 sessions back to back on a daily basis because they THINK it will help them achieve results and give them value for money from their gym membership. The thought process being, "it will burn lots of calories, help me lose weight, make me faster, stronger..........etc." The question is 'Can we do too much and how much is too much?" Excessive exercise, lack of recovery and poor nutrition equals disaster for both fat loss, fitness gains and health.

Intensity drives progress, there is no doubt about that, but it has to be planned in carefully alongside the volume of training. Volume can the duration of each workout or the frequency (days per week).

Here's what happens. After an intense workout we will experience some fatigue and muscle damage. Over the next few hours and days, the body spends time repairing itself as we rest and sleep. The body draws on our nutrition to fuel this repair process so quality protein and carbohydrate are essential to this repair process. Provided the body is given this time to repair, and appropriate nutrition, then the body will repair and ADAPT and this will result in improved strength, power, speed, fat loss, shape and definition etc.

If you don't feel that you are getting any stronger, you experience frequent injury and illness, or that your body shape just isn't changing then you are likely under-recovering. The body isn’t getting a chance to adapt. The key is to be willing to work hard but also be willing to rest when you need to. Feeling sore and stiff is a signal that you need to recover with rest and good nutrition. Listen to your body. If you do this, then you can give the next workout your absolute all and achieve even more results. Without adequate recovery, you may only be giving the next workout 50% of what your capable of, making it a bit of a waste of time. Resting doesn't have to be sitting on the couch. It can be 'active recovery', such as a moderate bike ride, a walk, a swim, a conditioning circuit or flexibility session.

But wait, there is so much more to this than fitness gains. We also need to consider health and injuries, If you are feeling listless, constantly sore and stiff, get ill a lot with bugs and viruses and have repetitive injuries then that can also be the consequence of under-recovery as this can seriously depress immune function. Exercise puts a stress on the body and builds up free radicals, just as any other type of stress can. Free radicals can attack our cellular structure which is associated with ageing, cancer and a variety of other diseases. Over production of free radicals has the potential to cause serious health problems.

It's common place for endurance athletes such as triathletes and distance runners to have depressed immunity, especially when it comes to upper respiratory tract infections (like colds and coughs) and these infections often last longer and can be more severe than in other individuals. These kind of elite athletes trade their health for a higher performance. Unless you are a competing athlete, you don't need to make this trade off.

Train SMART not just hard. Don't allow lack of recovery to rob you of your fitness results. Follow these simple guidelines to get the most out of your workouts and the best results.

  •     Have a plan - that works for you around both work and life. Plan in recovery as well as training.
  •     Train hard for short durations (30-60 mins) and recover for longer in between these kind of sessions (48 hrs).
  •     Train at lower intensities in between harder workouts.
  •     Keep intensity moderate to push through distance or endurance goals. The human body is NOT designed to train at high intensities for long periods of time.
  •     Nourish yourself with quality food, including antioxidants to mop up free radicals, drink water and sleep well.
  •     Have fun, workout for enjoyment as well as your goals!

Article by Sharon Jones - Personal Trainer, Lifestyle Coach  and Fitness Industry Tutor