Just like my dog in the picture sometimes you need to rest haha!
On a serious note, in fitness today, there is a trend that you need to constantly be training. “No off days” and “Never skip a workout” are phrases commonly being thrown around. I am going to tell you why this is flat out stupid and how I made this mistake for way too long.
Back when I first started training I had this mentality; that the more I trained the better, and that I needed to train everyday in order to get results. Even though I knew this was wrong I put it in the back of my mind and ignored it. I trained 7 days a week, almost every single week of the year with little days off, and I did this for years. It worked at first, and in fact very well. I became very strong relative to my body weight hitting 350+ pound squats and 450+ pound deadlifts, all at under 145 pounds. This was great until something terrible happened.
I started to have some pretty awful things happen to me. I started to feel weak. My lifts were not going up for long periods of time. Every once in awhile I would be able to hit a small PR but nothing crazy. This continued for a while and then something worse started happening. I started having days where I didn’t want to lift. Yep, you heard that right. The kid who lifted every single day for years straight all of a sudden no longer wanted to train. And then, to top that off, I just no longer felt like me. I had things I wanted to do in my head, but the punch of energy behind them wasn’t there.
Now reading this, you can probably look and say, “Mike you were clearly over-trained and you need to rest!” And you are absolutely right. But I wanted to be superman. I wanted to keep training and keep getting stronger. So instead of resting I just trained harder and beat myself up even more. I knew I needed rest, but I wanted to believe I didn’t. I tried convincing myself just sleeping at night was enough, but it wasn’t.
Eventually I couldn’t do it anymore. I had to face the reality that I needed rest. At this time I was researching how old time strongmen, bodybuilders, and weightlifters trained. I was fascinated with how they were bigger and stronger than most of the guys who are taking steroids today. (Note how I still had my passion for lifting. I just didn’t have the energy to put into since I was so burnt out). One thing I realized with these guys is that they understood the body so well. In today’s mainstream fitness and sports all that is talked about is the importance of training and nutrition. This is great but recovery is thrown under the bus. In the old days even before the science lifters understood something that we still refuse to talk about today. Recovery is the most important part of training! If you do not recover you do not get the results you want. Many of the old time lifters would train only 3-4 days a week and then would deload as well. They would train hard, and then recover harder. This left them with physiques, athleticism, and strength we all dream of, but still allowed them to be full of energy, remain healthy, and have time for other endeavors in life. Because that is what this is all about right? Looking good, performing good, and feeling good, so use can use those tools to make your life amazing. The name of the game is health and fitness! So what is the point of all of that training if you are fit but don’t feel healthy?
I have now began training every other day, and deloading every 3 weeks. So far a few things have happened. Number one: my drive to training is slowly coming back. (Note, don’t expect everything to change after resting for one week. It took time to burn out and it will take time to fully recover). Number two: my strength is coming back. I dropped the weights down super low and have slowly been building them back up and I don’t feel anywhere near a plateau. And third, I am starting to feel like me again. The feeling like that energy isn’t here is slowly going away. I still experience it every once in a while since I am still recovering, but it is going away with the more rest I get.
By the way, many may be afraid to take time off, but you should not be at all! This was the trap I fell into. You will not lose all your gains like all of these fitness vloggers try to make you believe. In fact, you may even make some. If your lifts do go down, do not worry your body has a mechanism for that , and they will be in tip top shape again in only a few weeks. You will waste so much more time training for years and making no progress because you are burnt out. Taking a week off to make sure you are rejuvenated may take a week out of your training, but you are much better off losing a few weeks of training a year and having some amazing training sessions every time you go to the gym, as opposed to having lackluster workouts with no progress for years on end.
It is okay to rest…actually scratch that you need to rest. So train hard to get the results you want, but recover harder.
If you enjoy lifting and all of a sudden don’t want to, you are probably burnt out. Old time bodybuilder Leroy Colbert used to say something along these lines: If you are going to go to the gym and that drive isn’t there, then just stay home. This is because your body is telling you you need to rest. (Note: if you feel fine but just hate exercise this does not apply to you haha. In this case you should still go, but maybe find a form of exercise you enjoy more. This also doesn’t mean you should skip just because you had a busy day.)
If you feel weak and like you can’t get stronger, or you just don’t feel like yourself anymore, you are probably burnt out and need to take some time off.
“Even the strongest of warriors need to rest…”
*Note I am not a doctor and am not telling you to do anything. This blog is simply a representation of my life experience. Always consult your doctor before trying anything.