Taking a break from training
One thing that is obvious to athletes and sporting people from around the world is that a break from training is good and has many health benefits. However, although we know that rest is good there is another question that needs to be answered, how much rest is too much? Whether we go on holiday, are suffering from and injury or just cannot get to the gym there is going to be a point in every athlete’s life where they will have to miss and extended period of training. In this article we are going to be assessing the benefits and negatives of missing time from training and we are going to determine the amount of time you can spend away from training before your hard work goes to waste and the rest starts to negatively affect your body.
Benefits of rest
Firstly, lets go over the many benefits of implementing a rest day or period in your routine. One benefit includes more rest time. This allows your muscles to rebuild after a workout and reduces the risk of injury or overtraining. This leads to improved performance as overtraining can make you less motivated during your workouts. As well as being beneficial to performance, taking a rest can help with sleep. This is due to exercise releasing energy – boosting hormones like cortisol and adrenaline. Constant training can cause a high level of these hormones produced, making getting to sleep harder. A break from exercise will allow your hormone levels to return to normal and therefore improve sleep.
Although there are many benefits to a rest day, we do not need to completely kick back. We can still engage in a low intensity exercise for example a light jog or walk. You can also engage in activities that may improve recovery like a stretching routine or foam rolling. Its important that you do not do a too vigorous exercise as you need to give your body time to rest and your muscles to rebuild the micro tears caused by resistance training. Although cardio is great on a rest day, anything higher intensity like HIIT is not the best thing to be doing as this is high intensity and causes too much strain to your muscles.
You will become lazy
An extended period of time away from the gym can take a toll on your mindset and motivation. The feel of relaxation and the free time to do whatever you want can be tempting, but its important that you do not fall for this. Remember why you started training and do not let all that hard work go to waste. If you don’t feel like going back to your usual routine, then try implementing different exercises to spice things up. This could include more body weight exercises or changing your environment (e.g. changing gym or running rout).
As well as resting for a long period of time can reduce motivation, overtraining can also have the same effects. Too much training leaves your muscles feeling weak as they have not got time to recover and reduce your overall mood as your always tired. The reduced sleep caused by overtraining will also cause you to be less motivated and focused when training. Overtraining constantly can leave to overtraining syndrome which is when you will begin to experience extreme symptoms like unusual soreness and delayed recovery.
Reduced strength and fitness
One thing that is on everyone’s mind when taking time away from training is the amount of strength that you have lost in your time off. Although its likely you have lost some muscle mass aerobic fitness is easily lost during time off. You can start to lose your aerobic fitness after a few days of kicking back and relaxing compared to the weeks it takes to lose muscle mass. Research suggests that after just 3- 4 weeks of not training, endurance can decrease up to 35% and v02 max can decrease up to 20% in highly trained athletes.
Although it can be detrimental to our progress, it can be easier to get your gains back than you thought. You may have heard of something called muscle memory, this is when your muscle fibres become used to doing a movement making it easier and easier to do. This is key when it comes to re gaining muscle as the memory makes it easier to do movements and therefore you will put on more muscle mass. As well as our tissue cells memorising our movements, there is also memory in neurons. This allows us to remember how to perform an action and can reduce the risk of injury and increase the effectiveness of our training as form should be good considering you haven’t trained in a while.
Surge in hormones
Taking a break from training is going to take a toll on your hormone levels. Engaging in exercise releases hormones like testosterone and can help reduce cortisol levels. While taking a break from training the levels of testosterone will be reduced and as well as other growth hormones. This can have an affect on your mental state and physical state. An increase in cortisol levels can cause elevated stress levels that can make someone feel depressed and under the weather. The reduced levels of testosterone can also make you feel irritable and fatigued. Reduced T- levels can also cause an increase in body fat and reduced muscle mass. The surge of hormones experienced when you do start training again will be quite noticeable and will make you feel better and look better.
In conclusion there are many benefits to taking a break from training like giving your muscles time to recover. However, like many things too much of a break can turn into a bad thing and can have negative physical and mental benefits. A recommendation would be to take occasional breaks from training but do not make them too long. For example, a week away from training shouldn’t be too bad but anything over two weeks may have negative effects on your mental and physical health. Although if you do have to have an extended period away from the gym then it is not the end of the world. Things like muscle memory will make it very easy to get to your previous fitness state and will allow you to quickly make progress.