There are days when you need to motivate yourself to work out even if you don’t feel like it, and other days when you should give your body a break. How can you tell when to push yourself, and when to rest? How do you make the right call?
Exercising is important, even if we “don’t feel like it,” but exercising past our body’s limits can be dangerous. As we endeavor to optimize our health, we know that in order to succeed we have to push ourselves and take healthy steps even when we would rather be doing something else.
Mostly, our body rewards us after a good workout, with a great feeling from knowing we did the right thing – and eventually, with tangible results.
However, sometimes our body is not just fooling around and is seriously not in a condition for working out. In such cases, the best thing to do is take a rest. The hard part is, of course, telling those “mental” cases apart from the “physical” ones, and acting accordingly.
When the body is overworked
An accurate, effective way to identify exhaustion is measuring the pulse while resting (resting heart rate, or RHR). A high RHR means that the body is under pressure, trying to maintain its basic function to stay alive.
Professional athletes monitor their RHR daily. Even though a rate that is one pulse higher or lower than usual is not cause for worry, a rate that is 10% higher than usual is a sign that something’s wrong. When professional athletes find themselves in such a situation, most of them just cancel their training for that day with no regrets.
Monitoring your exhaustion level
The first step is to monitor your RHR. Choose three consecutive days where you don’t stay out late. Each day, check your pulse immediately when you get up, and calculate the average at the end of the three days. This is your RHR. Make sure you check your pulse at the same time each day, because it usually changes each hour.
Another way to monitor your exhaustion level is to pay attention to your mood and enthusiasm before going to work out, and how well you feel while you’re exercising. Everyone can have a bad workout, but to feel consistently bad is not a good sign.
Sometimes “bad days” can add up without our noticing, so it’s important to keep track with a journal. We recommend taking note of the following additional relevant information:
- How the training went
- What you ate
- What you drank
- How well you slept before and after
- How you felt before, during, and after your workout
That’s how you can pay attention to any deviance from the norm. For example, 10 minutes is the average time it takes to fall asleep at night; if you fall asleep in much less than 10 minutes, this may be a sign of exhaustion.
Speaking of sleep, be aware that a lack of sleep may harm your training routine, since it’s the time your body secretes human growth hormone (HGH), which contributes to the healing of strain on the muscles caused while training. When the amount of sleep hours is lacking, your body will not be able to rebuild itself, accumulate muscle, and maintain strength.
Don’t want to miss training
Nevertheless, the actual problem is not identifying exhaustion—we can usually tell when we are tired. The problem is that many times we feel like we cannot allow ourselves to skip exercising. The guilty feelings that follow a missed workout can be too much for us to handle. You should ask yourself: would you rather train and possibly harm your body, or take a day off and just train the next day?
Most people know the right answer, but some cannot bring themselves to take a day off, and that’s a serious problem. One of the rules that trainers should have is to not be more brave than smart. Training while you need to rest does not imply courage, but rather lack of responsibility. It means risking your health and the effectiveness of the training and likelihood of meeting your ultimate goals.