We live in the age of extremes. We have to be the fastest, baddest, biggest and the best at everything we do. This is America! When speaking of cars, computers and the speed at which we receive our text messages, our all or nothing attitude is a definite advantage, but it is this mind frame that has lead us to gigantic food portions, exponentially rising obesity related healthcare costs and the first generation of children with a shorter life expectancy than their parents. We certainly are the biggest and baddest in terms of girth and the quality of our nutrition, that’s for sure.
It works the other way, too. We want instant gratification, instant results and immediate weight loss when adopting a fitness routine. In the age of the Biggest Loser, where contestants work out 8+ hours a day, everyday, and see double digit weight loss, it’s easy to get caught up in the idea that more is better. Unfortunately, our bodies don’t work that way.
Our bodies don’t respond well to extremes. If you eat too much food, you gain weight. However, if you eat too few calories, your body shuts down and your weight loss screeches to a halt. The same goes with exercise: you have to find a happy medium to coax your body to change.
This may come as a shock, but your workouts are not when you become stronger- when you rest is when you become stronger. When you lift weights, you are causing little tears in your muscle fibers. You are injuring yourself. When you rest those muscles, the fibers begin to heal themselves, and grow back together stronger and bigger than they were before. Thus, you are able to lift more weight and your muscles become bigger. If you don’t allow those muscles adequate rest, however, the fibers will never heal and continually weaken and rip, never giving you the results you are looking for, until eventually you injure yourself with a pull or tear.
Each muscle needs 48 hours to heal after a workout. Anything less than that is setting yourself up for injury. Now, this doesn’t mean you can only workout every other day. You can safely workout every day of the week if you want, with a little bit of planning. Each muscle group needs 48 hours to rest and heal, so you can alternate muscle groups each day. The easiest split is upper body one day, lower body the next, but you can split up your bod in anyway you choose.
Rest is just as important for your progress as the time you spend in the gym. In addition to giving your muscles a break, make sure you eat enough protein and drink enough water to facilitate muscle growth.