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Why expert fitness trainers say that you need rest days from your weight training. 

It’s easy to want to overdo the things we enjoy. For some, that might mean ordering from the same restaurant every weekend because it’s just. so. good, but it can also be true for your exercise routine. 

Discovering a sport or training style that you’re passionate about can mean that you want to find time for it every day. But just as you might suddenly develop an aversion to pad Thai if you have it every weekend, there can be too much of a good thing when it comes to your training. 

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Many people who go to the gym end up with fitness burnout. While daily movement is important, balancing your weight training with rest days is important – but often should you really be strength training? 

“Can I weight train every day?”

“It’s best not to,” says strength coach Alice Miller. “The average person doesn’t need to train every day, and for general health and fitness I think around four sessions a week is absolutely fine. You can also complement your weight training with something else that you enjoy like yoga or running. Unless you have a physically demanding sport or you’re competing in something and you have to train, you don’t need to do more.” 

Emma Obayuvana, trainer from the Strong Women Training Club, agrees. “I actually don’t think it’s a good idea to weight train every day because your body needs recovery. Sometimes, recovery is even more important than the training itself,” she says. That’s because, during training, we create tears in our muscles. In order for them to rebuild and grow back stronger, we need rest, good nutrition and sleep. 

Alice Miller explains why we shouldn’t weight train every day

“What happens if I weight train every day?”

Simply put: you’ll burn out. “If you train too much, it just doesn’t give your body enough time to recover. The body can only truly recover during that rest time, when we’re sleeping, eating and drinking enough. Our non-training days are as important as our training days and without them the body’s just going to fatigue and struggle with progressing. Because of that, we can also get injured,” says Miller. 

Don’t think you can outwit your body by dividing your training into an upper/lower split. Just because your legs may rest when your upper body trains, your body still needs time to rebuild tissue which it can’t do if you are constantly creating more damage. 

“Overtraining will lead to fatigued muscles and you won’t see the results that you actually want from your training sessions because you just haven’t had a chance to recover,” adds Obayuvana. “For me, overtraining means my sleep doesn’t quite follow its normal pattern and I don’t feel refreshed.” 

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Only go for walks or do light stretches on rest days

“How many rest days should I take?”

“Take at least two rest days a week,” advises Miller. “I wouldn’t do them back to back, but usually break them up so you have days throughout the week to allow your body to refuel and feel good for the next session.”

Both Obayuvana and Miller opt for ‘active rest days’. “For example, you might play tennis or swim, so you’re resting from the activity of weight training but still moving your body. It’s about low-impact and low-intensity movement. I also think it’s important to have at least one day of complete rest, where you do nothing other than walk,” says Obayuvana. 

For more advice on getting the most from your training, sign up to the Strong Women Training Club. 

Images: Getty / Unsplash / Benjamin Youd 

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