Whether you have been working out for as long as you've been able to move, or you are just getting started on your fitness journey, many people face the temptation of going all out to achieve the results they are after. Of course that is what people think makes the most sense: Move more, burn more, improve faster, lose more weight.
But you can't drive very far when your gas gauge is in the red, and your body can only push so hard for so long before it, too, will leave you stranded in the middle of the road. That, of course, is the worst-case scenario, but here are a few tips to avoid burnout from over-training:
Plan your active days and rest days. Many times I have started working with new clients who have been beyond eager to hit the ground running. While this motivation is crucial to their success, it can also be detrimental when taken too far. It can take weeks for fatigue to set in, but when it does it can set you back for just as long. Rather than waiting until you can't move your legs, plan your workouts around your schedule, making sure that you plan at least a couple rest days (and stick to them!)
Plan rest days around your hard days. If you see your trainer twice a week, plan on your trainer making sure that your workouts are worthwhile. In order to get the most of your sessions, you don't want to kill yourself beforehand with back-to-back spin and body sculpting classes! Make sure that in addition to your full rest day, you alternate muscle groups and activities from day to day.
"Rest" doesn't have to mean "do nothing." If you know that you have significant changes to make to improve your fitness and health, it is of course most ideal that you do something every day. So it is understandable that the idea of a rest day might make you somewhat apprehensive. In this case, I am not talking about sitting on the sofa for an entire day. Rather, you simply want to give your muscles time to recover from any new resistance regimen by laying off the weights and going for a walk instead. If you are starting a running program, you would do the same exact thing, or change up with an easy bike ride around the neighborhood or leisurely swim. The important thing is that you are not pushing yourself to the point of feeling soreness, stress, or fatigue.
But sometimes you have to do nothing. If you are sick, are nursing a cranky joint, muscle strain, or other overuse injury, you DO need a "do nothing" day. Put your feet up, "R.I.C.E." your injuries (Rest, ice, compression, elevation), get a massage if it's safe to do so, hydrate, and spend a day just focusing on your rest and nutrition. I learned the hard way when I trained for my first ultramarathon last year that even though it made the most sense to plan my long runs for Sundays, that I actually needed that day to be a rest day, instead. Between clients, classes, and waiting tables, I was working 50 hours. It should have been a clue when it was nearly impossible to peel myself out of bed on Sunday mornings. I ignored the absolute exhaustion, and my legs made me pay the price with persistent pain and limping!
So remember as you move forward with any current or new training routine, that rest and recovery are just as vital as reps and repeats!