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Most people would lose it if their boss suggested they work 7 days a week with no end in sight, or go for years without a vacation…but ask someone to take a break from their fitness routine, and they'll actually fight you on it tooth and nail.
I know this, because for years I have suggested that all my clients take a planned break from their usual exercise regimen about every 3 months or so, and honestly, if you could see their faces when I do, you’d think I had told them that Oprah Winfrey and Deepak Chopra just got married.
As hard as it is for people to embrace, one of the most important aspects of achieving phenomenal results lies in your willingness NOT to exercise. Taking a 7 to 10 day hiatus from fitness every 12 to 18 weeks is one of the most powerful and often overlooked elements of true fitness success. Here are a few reasons why:
The Myth of "Never Give Up, Never Surrender" - Regardless of what your brain tells you, there are some very sound physiological and biological benefits to periodically taking a planned break. It starts by understanding what happens every time you step into the gym.
The Glycogen Factor: Each time you lift weights or participate in any type of resistance exercise, you dump a chemical substance stored in the muscles known as glycogen. Glycogen provides the energy that produces all muscle contraction, whether it's blinking your eyes, standing up from a seated position, or squeezing out 24 dumbbell curls.
Around the 10th week of following a consistent lifting regimen, your muscles begin to deplete quicker and the body must look to its secondary source of glycogen stored in the liver (the liver acts as a reserve tank.) As the weeks go by, this tank gets lower and lower on glycogen.
Give It A Rest - At about the 10 to 12 week mark of a consistent workout program, you may begin to notice that your lifting isn't as efficient as usual, and you might describe feeling weaker or tired. You may begin to notice more frequent aches and pains, workout boredom, difficulty sleeping, changes in appetite, or just a general lack of enthusiasm. As glycogen stores become lower and lower, the body can also become more vulnerable to injury.
Even Muscles Need a Vacation - Unfortunately, instead of taking a break, most people try to push through this period, thinking it's a lapse in motivation, when in fact it is simply the body's natural response to its environment. Like everything else in the physical world, muscles, joints and connective tissue need some downtime to relax and refresh themselves - in much the same way a nice vacation refreshes the mind and soul.
How Long Is Long Enough? - When glycogen stores in the liver get low enough, it takes more than just a few days away from exercise to replenish your reserve supply. Taking a break (especially from lifting) for a week to 10 days will, in most cases, put you back on the road, and help you restore not only glycogen, but your energy and enthusiasm as well. It’s all connected.
In the meantime, it is believed that your muscles, having become accustomed to being depleted every 2 to 3 days, will react to this break by building a nice fresh store of glycogen. After a 7 to 10 day rest (body builders typically take 2 full weeks off) you are likely to find that you are able to lift up to 10% more weight when you first return to you usual routine.
So, contrary to popular belief, taking some time off from lifting doesn't make you weaker…it actually makes you stronger physically, mentally, even emotionally.
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About the Author:
Dianne Orwig is a success coach, motivational speaker, fitness trainer, and founder of LivingFit Online™, a fitness program that has helped thousands of men and women completely transform their bodies and live healthier, happier lives though her less-is-better approach.
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