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Do Less, See More
By Phil Sottile, HFI, FT, CPFI, CFT
Everyone's heard the adage "No pain, no gain." But too much pain without proper rest and recovery may lead to no gain at all.
Overtraining can quickly become a problem for beginners as well as experienced trainers looking to put on lean muscle mass. Overtraining is training a muscle that has already been trained and has not yet achieved full recovery from the prior workout. This can cause excessive muscular soreness, tightness, increased waking heart rate, eating pattern disorders, and exercise plateaus.
Many people dive into an exercise routine, thinking that for their body to get results, they need to keep pumping up a grueling training regime. Unfortunately, people fail to realize that while key "mass building" movements such as leg and chest pressing are important, rest may be equally -- if not more -- important.
When you train, muscle fibers get torn down. During your days off from training, the body utilizes your food and supplementary product intake to repair and generate muscle fibers. When you don't achieve an adequate amount of rest between workout sessions, the trained muscle may not positively respond with new tissue growth from a prior workout experience.
Gauge Your Recovery Time
Recovery from soreness is unpredictable. The easy rule of thumb: Your body has achieved sufficient recovery from training when the muscle no longer feels sore or stiff. So, take a day or two away from training or train a body part that does not exasperate the sore muscle. For instance, alternate upper-body workouts with lower-body training. This will give each area time to rest, recover, and grow.
And, to alleviate muscle soreness, you may want to perform aerobics coupled with stretching on a day following strength training to disperse chemical buildups (lactic acid) that may intensify the soreness.
Make sure to get adequate rest during the night or try to take a 30-minute nap sometime during the day. This will help to promote recovery and will get you back to your workout routine faster.
Listen to your body. If you're a beginner, your soreness may last from as little as three days to as many as seven days. But this is normal for a beginner. As your body becomes more conditioned, your recovery rate will increase.
Soreness can be a good indicator of progress, but it can also be a good barometer of having done too much work. So, if your chest-training day rolls around and you're still sore, just say no!
Phil Sottile is a co-founder of cyfit.com and director of its fitness division.