If you can’t go hard, go home
THE JUNGLE – a 2POOD blog
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“Rest is not idleness, and to lie sometimes on the grass under trees on a summer’s day, listening to the murmur of the water, or watching the clouds float across the sky, is by no means a waste of time.” -John Lubbock
One of the most important aspects of working out is- ironically- not working out. I’m sure every one reading this has heard the quip from a bro: “You get stronger on rest days.” While that is a gross over simplification of periodization, there is a grain of truth buried within it. To paraphrase Glassman himself, if you go 100% every day, you will die. However, too much rest is simply stagnation and inactivity. I don’t think I need to radicalize the negatives of this sort of lifestyle to my audience at this point, as much as we all love a good circle-jerk. Let’s just say we all agree that not working out = bad.
So, logically, we must conclude that there is an optimal amount of rest that will produce the best results. Now, I am writing this article to the vast majority of affiliate members- the ones who show up, check the board for the WoD, knock it out, then head home for a shower and some sweet potatoes. If you’re an athlete who receives specialized programming/has a coach/follows a blog, then you should be intimate enough with the person calling your shots for them to program your rests. (If not, get a new coach.) No, this is for the people who make the decision 6 days a week to either go to the gym, or head home and catch an extra episode or two of Friends reruns.
The dilemma is solved simply enough and is oft quoted by those who believe ambiguity will be perceived as intelligence: listen to your body. However, the explanation of that phrase is what is often glazed over by puffy-chested coaches who don’t realize that your slow nodding is less understanding, and more a mental note to ask someone else later. I suppose that herein lies the true purpose
of this article: to explain what your coach/PT/doctor/best training pal means when they say “listen to your body”.
I’ll try to make this as simple as possible, but please, reader, understand that interpreting your body’s cues is a skill with a steep learning curve, and you’ll become better at it with time. The longer you exercise, the more you move your body and experience new sensations, the more data points your brain compiles about how your body feels and how it reacts. The more data points you have, t
the more accurately you can infer the effect a workout will have on your body in any given state, and thus make the ultimate decision: to rest, or not to rest.
The ultimate rule of thumb is thus: If you can’t give it your all, don’t show up at the gym. Seriously, don’t even go writhe around on a roller or sit on an airdyne. Do your stretches at home, take a walk, soak in Epsom salt, whatever- but don’t subject yourself to the stresses of the gym at all.
Notice I didn’t say “If you aren’t 100%”- I said “If you can’t give it your all.” Working out sore or a little fatigued is ok, it’s even a necessit
y. But if you’re at a point mentally where you’ve decided that you’re ok with “taking it easy today” or “just working at a nice easy pace”, then your being in the gym is counter productive.
A- you are robbing your body of its full recovery capacity. You’re using energy that your body needs to use to rebuild, but not using it in a beneficial way.
B- You’re training yourself to work at a lower intensity. Mentally, every time you grab that heavy bar or approach a long AMRAP, your mentality should be treating it like a lifetime PR or the final heat of a huge competition. Never train your body or mind to hold back.
Using this method, naturally, frequency will vary with each individual. But even the greatest of the great athletes have made spur of the moment decisions to stay at home and not do a thing. It’s important to remember as well that the mind needs time to rest as much (or more) as the body does. So next time you’re having trouble getting off the toilet due to the 5×5 two days ago, remember: no one is impressed when you limp into the gym loudly proclaiming how sore you are before you proceed to sandbag the heck out of the 400m runs. Take your days off when you need them. Listen to your body.
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