Are you resting enough in your exercise routine?

Since getting involved in CrossFit I’ve run into a problem: I genuinely love my workouts now. Whether it’s the official Workout of the Day from the CrossFit website or something that I made up on my own, my exercise is always constantly varied and high intensity. They’re just plain fun to do!

But here’s the issue: “all things in moderation” isn’t just for chocolate and beer.

When it comes to exercise, you have to take into account the time needed to heal and recover. You need rest days built into your plan so you get that recovery time, but you want to avoid getting too set in your daily schedule so you avoid stagnation. Rest, much like specific exercises, can suffer from too set of a schedule.

Stagnation

First, lets review something which almost every fitness buff takes for granted, and that’s the idea of “stagnation” or to be more explanatory: the process by which your body adapts to the specific stimuli under which you place it, thus impeding improvement. In most cases, we’re talking about always doing the same exercises on the same schedule at approximately the same intensity to the point where the athlete plateaus in their progress.

An example might be the weight lifter who does bench press, shoulder press, and bicep curls three times per week on the same days, same times, and at the same basic weight. For a while, they’ll get stronger and see some growth, but after a few months things will slow down, stop, or maybe even reverse. Why? It’s because the muscles have been trained to a specific ability but not pushed past it.

Now, we counter this in CrossFit training by mixing and matching various exercises in varied order at varied intensity for varied amounts of time. Doing this, even working three days in a row we can still avoid over-training our bodies, and developing conditions like rhabdomyolysis or stress injuries.

Avoiding Rest Stagnation

I know, this is kind of a weird thing to hear, but stay with me for a minute and I’ll explain. It’s really easy and it goes like this:

“If you always rest on the same days for the same amount of time, what happens when your body is in Rest Mode but suddenly needs to be in Beast Mode?”

Some people might argue that this doesn’t matter; your body is conditioned by the exercise you do the rest of the week, and you should have access to that conditioning at any time. I argue otherwise, because your physical readiness to respond to any given situation is more than just your physical fitness – it’s also a state of mind and training.

If you get yourself into a constant pattern of muscle workouts Monday/Wednesday/Friday, cardio Tuesday/Thurday/Saturday, and resting on Sundays, then that’s what you’ve adapted to. Your body and mind are now conditioned to lift heavy things every other day, run every off day, and not do a damn thing on the last day. It’s what your body expects, so it’s what you’ll be ready for on those days.

The answer is: stop doing that and start varying your workout and rest days on a different schedule. I prefer the three days on, one day off approach. I create nine complimentary CrossFit-based workouts, building in rotations of lifting, gymnastics, and cardio movements between them, giving myself heavy, light, and moderate weight days interspersed amongst them. I do three of the workouts, then on my rest day I chill out, stretch, maybe go for a walk. Rinse and repeat.

What I’m doing is constantly varying which movements I do on which days – i.e. I’m not always doing heavy chest lifts on Mondays and 800 meter sprints on Thursdays – and because I’m on a 3/1 cycle, that also varies which days I rest on. This week, for instance, my rest days are Tuesday (today) and Saturday. Whereas this week I may go for a walk and stretch those days, last week I was throwing up 95 lbs Thrusters or doing pull-ups until I wanted to vomit.

This is what I mean by varying your rest along with your workouts. DO NOT let your body and mind get to used to the same thing. Stagnation is a disservice to you in every way, so avoid it.