While exercise and fitness hold their own physical and mental benefits, it is not the only factor that will contribute to our overall fitness goals, whatever they may be. Like peanut butter and jelly go hand in hand, so do exercise and rest. That’s why listening to your body is crucial to your overall health and well-being. In all walks of life, we need to know when to take a break. Whether it’s stepping away from the desk momentarily to clear your head or providing yourself a rest day. There is a balance between pushing ourselves and allowing that moment of necessary rest. The types of exercise you engage in, their intensity, and how frequently you perform them all determine the changes your body will go through. While your body is changing, it is essential to give you time to rest to give into those changes. Here are some reasons why you should listen to your body.
Listening to your body and taking that time to rest holds benefits well beyond the fitness and exercise realms of our lives. Our bodies are like machines. If one piece is lagging behind or failing to work, the rest of the machine will suffer and not be able to produce as well. Without rest, our bodies will suffer both physiologically and mentally, which can then create a domino effect of physical and mental ailments.
Rest and most importantly sleep, allows us to hit the reset button and process our emotions from the previous day. When that time is cut short, the less sleep you get has been correlated to an increase in negative emotional reactions and mood disorders. On the other hand, an appropriate amount of rest and time for your brain to do its magic leaves you in a more positive mood to start your next day.
Enhanced Brain Function
This one may seem obvious, but of course less rest can leave you fatigued therefore making it harder to focus throughout the day. Your fatigue can also affect brain function by hindering concentration and productivity. Along with having an ability to concentrate and focus on your daily tasks, your memories from the day before may even be fuzzy. This is because in fact, less sleep and overall rest gives the brain less time to store memories.
Better Heart Health
You may not know that blood sugar levels do not solely depend on your food and diet. In fact, rest and sleep are a major player. A level of rest so severe as sleep deprivation can actually cause prediabetes in healthy adults because less sleep doesn’t give your body the opportunity to respond to blood sugar levels which typically drop overnight. Without that needed time to let the body reset, your blood sugar level stays elevated for longer periods of time within a 24 hour period. Eventually, consistent high blood pressure can lead to heart disease. With something so simple as rest to prevent long term heart disease, this is definitely a reason to listen to your body.
Improved Immune Function
Your immune system is a crucial but fragile system of your body that can be affected if not treated. A lack of sleep can actually delay your body’s reaction in fighting foreign bacteria and viruses.
As we shine a light on how rest is essential for our bodies overall, it’s time to explain where rest plays a part specifically with exercise and fitness. Like the reasons stated prior, rest and sleep are essential. They could make or break you. In fact, a lack of rest in fitness could go so far as to reverse the progress that you have been working so hard to obtain. But to clarify, rest doesn’t necessarily mean skipping your workout, but by maybe engaging in a low intensity workout after a high intensity one. The goal is to focus on the concept of periodization, a practice that promotes regularly working out and moving through different levels of intensity - light, moderate and high intensity- to allow for that needed rest. By focusing on periodization and those rest periods, your body will exhibit the following results:
Letting you brain hit the reset button
Physical exertion also requires mental stamina. Allowing your brain to reset along with taking a psychological break from exercise can do the whole body good. Like stated previously, rest gives your brain a chance to process emotions and store memories. Without these needed opportunities to hit a reset button, your mental endurance could be pushed past its limits.
Replenishing your glycogen levels
Higher intensity workouts utilize the glycolysis energy pathway, the process of breaking down carbohydrates to be used for energy and fuel. High intensity exercise uses up your glycogen, a stored form of glucose, which is why you could feel sluggish after a workout. Continuing that workout could cause your body to eat up your body’s protein within the muscles once it runs out of its glycogen stores. That rest allows you to replenish those glycogen levels to maintain the intensity for the next workout.
After exercising, the mechanical stress of working out creates small tears in the muscles which can typically result in soreness. Rest periods create opportunities for those muscles to be repaired to then be stronger for your next workout.
Reduce the chance of injury
With all of the above reasonings combined, this can create the perfect storm for a fitness- related injury. With a fatigued mental status, low glycogen levels leaving you feeling sluggish, and sore muscles, your body is not equipped to continue a high intensity workout. This can lead to oversight or mistakes leading to an injury that could take you out of the gym to recover.
With all the explanation said and done, it’s very clear that we need to be listening to our bodies to determine when we need to give ourselves rest. Depending on the varying levels of intense workouts you engage in, rest periods could vary. If you frequently engage in ASD Santa Clara’s boot camp fitness programs weekly, then seek two to three days off a week. Whereas, lower intensity self defense training classes may only need as little as one day off. Because it varies by person and overall fitness regime, it’s crucial that we take the time to listen to our bodies and get to know our physical limits. By maintaining a high intensity with little periods of rest, your body could suffer symptoms from Overtraining Syndrome (OTS) if gone too far. When listening to your body’s needs, here are the symptoms you should look out for in OTS:
- Muscle strain or pain by not allowing time for muscle repair
- Fatigue leaving you feeling drained especially before, during, or after workouts
- Reduced appetite and weight loss from potential hormonal imbalances
- Irritability due to a change in stress hormone levels
- Reduced performance creating a decrease in strength, agility or endurance
- Reduced sleep quality
- Increase in illness or a decreased immunity response
- Loss of motivation
Whether it’s to gain muscle mass, self defense training skills, or simply to remain at your weight, we all have our own fitness goals that we’re working towards. Each has their own regime of varying intensity and frequency of training. From cardio bootcamp classes to ASD’s combat fighting classes, every fitness goal and regime has one thing in common: rest periods. It’s important to remember to take a step back from the mat and take a second to listen to your body. Your body and mind will thank you tomorrow.
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