Fitness and activity should absolutely be incorporated into our day to day lives and there is definitely no shortage of articles or health recommendations that advise us to get at least 30 minutes of activity daily.  But what’s not mentioned is the type or intensity of the activity they are referring to.  When we are implying low impact and low intensity activity such as walks, then yes daily bouts of 30-minute activity is likely fine for the majority of the population.  However, this vague recommendation of “30 minutes of activity” can be misconstrued leading some to over-train.

Many of us partake in high intensity activities, be it endurance training, weight training or a combination of both.  These types of training result in placing your body in a sympathetic state or in another words a state of stress to your physiological, physical and mental self.

Over-training results when a person keeps themselves in this state of stress for a prolonged amount of time, without allowing their bodies to rest and recover. This will eventually exhaust the body in more ways than one. The end result is typically injury (be it muscular, joint or sometimes even bone) due to fatigue and overuse of the body.  In weight training, the athlete is literally breaking down body tissues.  These microscopic tears need time to repair and rebuild themselves.  Without proper rest (including sleep and days away from the gym) and nutrition, these tissues are less able to rebuild.  As well, expectedly, some may be concerned about losing their “gains” or all the progress they’ve made, but rest assured that it will take more than one or two days a week away from the gym to see any noticeable amount of reduced performance.

Aside from the likelihood of injury, other side effects can include compromised sleeping, suppressed immune system and loss of one’s mental drive.  All these side effects are interconnected and affect one another.  When you don’t sleep well, you are left tired.  Being tried for an extended amount of time will ultimately result in a decreased immune system, making the athlete more susceptible to illness.  Once sick, or even just tired, the mental drive needed to push yourself through the challenging training, whether it be the last two kilometres of a long run or trying to reach a new one rep max, will more than likely be missing.

It really shouldn’t be a surprise that rest is equally important in the equation of building strength and endurance as the actual training itself.  Rest deserves and needs to be a priority.  Although it can be, rest doesn’t have to be a “do nothing at all” day.  Active rest days are what we recommend here at Black Tusk Athletics, so on your non-training days, go for a hike or a bike ride in the river valley in the summer or bundle up, grab a coffee or tea and explore an area of Edmonton that you’ve been meaning to on foot in the winter.  As you set goals for your training, don’t forget to set goals for your rest and recovery.  Staying rested, both physically and mentally will keep you healthy and able for the long run.

Anne Tang, coach and co-owner of Black Tusk Athletics