How often should you train?
One of the most common questions that coaches and trainers hear in the gym is about training frequency. If you are trying to get in shape, should you be working out every day? When does training become overtraining? Can you exercise too much or do you have to force yourself?
The answers lie in a number of factors and, as with so many things about wellness, the trick is to take things slowly, follow your trainer’s advice, learn as you go, and avoid. to let your ego do the talking. Let’s look at some examples.
Should we train every day?
Should you go to the gym and exercise every day? If exercising is good for you, then more is better, right? The answer for most people will simply be “no”. Remember that your body gets stronger when it is at rest. Exercise puts stress on the body’s systems, from the cardiovascular system to the endocrine system. It also causes your muscles to tear and break when they react to excessive load, and when they rest, they build up stronger. Getting adequate rest allows your body to repair, recharge, and get fit in response to your extra load, so it can exercise more in the future. Without adequate rest, however, this essential process never occurs and the continuous stress on the body causes it to break down. The result is overtraining and a rapid spiral to injury and burnout.
However, as with everything in life, there are exceptions to this general rule. First, if you are an elite athlete who trains individually under the watchful eye of a qualified trainer, you can train very well six days a week a week. The key here is that you will be training different muscle groups and physical systems to avoid a build-up of stress in a particular area. Elite athletes also spend years reaching their physical peak and have incredible reserves of endurance, strength, flexibility and courage. They also tend to sleep much longer than the average person and have a perfectly adapted diet.
But there are other situations where you might advocate for “training” every day. A good training program will involve cross-training elements that exercise different parts of the body in new and varied ways. So you could do weight training one day, cardio another day, and then stretch or flexibility discipline on the third day. A day of “rest” can be a walk or a short bike ride. When you’re already in good shape, a day of “active rest” can allow you to just have fun and be physical in a natural way, without going to the gym or seeing yourself as a workout. The trick here is to focus on low intensity exercise on the rest day (s) and focus on rest, nutrition, and relaxation. All of this will prepare you for heavier and more intense exercises on training days.
The arguments in favor of regular training
It is certain that a regular training program will give the best results. So, aim to train three to five days a week with a fixed or structured goal – such as an exercise class, a run, a bike or a swim, a sports class or a fitness class. Then, around these sessions, integrate active and functional movement with mobility and relaxation work. A regular training program, combined with the right diet and optimal sleep, will give you the results you crave as quickly as possible. For most of us overtraining isn’t much of a problem, but dragging ourselves out for that 5K run on a Sunday or going to an evening circuit class really is!
How to recognize overtraining
Everyone will have a different level of tolerance. However, classic signs of overtraining include:
- Loss of enthusiasm for your sport or fitness activity
- Recurrent injury
- Falling results
- A weakened immune system
- Constant fatigue
Of course, it also usually becomes a pain in the back for anyone who knows you! Breathe, remember your long term goals, and schedule some R&R. A sports massage, a day at the spa, ten hours of sleep… everything you need to restart your body’s recovery.
A good rule of thumb
Here are some things to consider with the frequency of training
- Do not weight training in the same area of the body for two days in a row.
- Don’t do high intensity training (HIT) like sprinting or Tabata on consecutive days.
- Do not train CrossFit for more than three consecutive days.
- Don’t run at your best every day without resting.
However, remember that your day off doesn’t necessarily mean sitting on the couch with a pot of ice cream and Netflix for 14 hours. Ask yourself if you did something active today? Even if you didn’t train, did you hit your step goal on your activity tracker? Are you short of breath doing something functional? Listen to your body – not your ego – and what it is telling you, and you will learn to become confident in your own training “diagnosis”.
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