There are mountains of research suggesting that Americans are overweight in large part because we are chronically sleep deprived (among other factors). Somewhere along the line we’ve been brainwashed into thinking that rest or sleep is something lazy people do. This carries over into fitness, where many people say they are too tired to exercise. Those who work hard but miss rest never allow their bodies to heal or to achieve adequate recovery. Here’s why rest and sleep affect recovery.
Science teaches us that adequate hours and quality of sleep will help:
- Metabolize carbohydrates properly
- Maintain leptin and growth hormones
- Increase energy levels
- Increase cognitives abilities
- Maintain proper blood pressure and insulin resistance
- Decrease anxiety and perceived stress
- Repair muscle
Most people fall off the exercise wagon after just a few weeks of effort. They fail to make adjustments in their sleeping patterns, and the result is a tired body and defeated resolve. Without enough sleep, it’s difficult to do just about anything, let alone exercise and eat right.
It generally takes about 7 hours as quality sleep for most people to gain the reparations and benefits of sleep. People often lose sleep when they add exercise to the equation. This happens only when exercise is simply added to the existing busy schedule and no accommodations are made to scrape other activities off your plate!
Make an effort to measure and record your sleep hours and quality as carefully as you track your progress in any other area. Devices like a Fitbit or Apple Watch, worn while you sleep, helps you track and improve your sleep patterns.
Your body needs adequate time to recuperate after exercise. The quicker the recovery, the quicker you’ll see gains in strength and physical transformation. Strength and muscle gains (which translates into fat loss) increase during periods of rest. The amount of rest needed varies from person to person based on your goals, your intensity, and your unique makeup.
Here are a few general guidelines to consider when planning rest:
~ Moderate muscle soreness is normal.
~ Intense muscle soreness means those muscles should not be “loaded” for a period of 24 hours of rest. That is not to say, however, that you can’t work the soreness out by doing something of moderate intensity.
~ When weight training for strength, allow 24 hours of rest between muscle groups targeted in that day’s workout.
~ A day of rest after physically loading your body is strongly encouraged. However, a brisk walk can be considered rest! There’s a difference between elevating your heart rate and enjoying the mental benefits of moderate activity versus pushing yourself and taxing or loading your system.
Listen to your body, but don’t be an excuse maker! Everyone needs rest. Your best progress will be made during periods of sleep and when you allow your body to repair itself. Here’s my honest-to-goodness rule for rest: I do not schedule a day of rest for myself, I let “life” do that for me. In other words, I set out to get 7 days of exercise per week, or 2 days out of 10, something more important than my workout comes up. No problem! Instead of rigidly denying life’s little surprises, I chalk them up to rest days. Granted, I will still find a way to get my heart rate up for a minimum of 30 minutes on those days, but it’s not life and death.
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