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HAPPY CHRISTMAS! YOU’VE EARNED A REST…

Christmas is just around the corner, and the New Year is coming up fast behind it. So with that in mind, you might be looking at what you’re about to eat and drink—and how little time you’re going to have to work out over the holidays—and worrying about how you’re going to keep your routine going over the days and weeks to come. After all, you don’t want to take one step forward and two steps back—or three, depending on how many mince pies you eat…

As always with the holidays, the golden rule here is moderation. Don’t go overboard on the food and booze at Christmas, and when the New Year rolls round you’ll find that it won’t take you long at all to get back into your usual routine.

But it’s worth remembering that this kind of moderation works both ways. All fitness routines need moderating with periods of rest every so often. So perhaps taking a week or so off from the gym or your PT classes over Christmas isn’t such a bad idea.

NO REST FOR THE WICKED

If you’re enthusiastic about keeping in shape, taking a single day off never mind an entire week might sound sacrilegious. But rest is a super important part of any fitness routine. In fact, it’s perfectly normal to factor in a week or so’s rest and recovery every few months. Even the professionals do it—marathon runners won’t run marathons every day leading up to a race, but will rest up and tail their training off often weeks in advance so that they’re fully recovered for the big day. So long story short, there’s nothing wrong with taking some time off. And you might need it more than you realise.

LISTEN TO YOUR BODY

If you’re working out regularly, it’s only natural that you’ll have the odd week or so when you’re not feeling your best and your body is screaming out for some recovery time. Overtraining in this way can be a serious problem, worsening your performance and making you more prone to injury. After all, think about what you’re doing: not only are you using up huge amounts of energy by exercising, but physical exercise puts strain on the body, pushing its systems to work and repair themselves faster and better than before.

Sore Muscles

Increased physical activity is tiring, but recovering from it is just as tough. Exercise involves intentionally damaging your muscles, leaving them to repair themselves stronger and bigger than before. All of that takes time, and can be tiring work. So if you feel like you need a rest, take one. Listen to what your body is trying to tell you: if something you found easy one week is a struggle the next, maybe it’s time to let your system recover before you push it into tougher and more challenging areas. Better to take a few days off when you want to than end up injuring yourself and having to take much longer off than you would ever want to.

WHAT KIND OF “TIRED” ARE YOU? 

Listening to your body is a start, but what exactly are you listening for? What kind of “tired” are you?

Delayed onset muscle soreness, or DOMS, is one kind of “tiredness” that might leave you looking for an excuse to skip the gym and wanting to take a day or two off. DOMS is muscle soreness that comes on a day or two after exercising, when the muscles that you’ve damaged by working out start to repair themselves. There is some evidence to suggest that continuing to exercise through DOMS is the best way to alleviate the pain (a phenomenon called “exercise-induced analgesia”), but the jury is still out as to whether this actually works as desired, or whether you’re best just letting your body recover naturally. Either way, DOMS is a perfectly healthy type of tiredness: a good sign that your workouts are pushing you to your limits—and well deserving of a rest.

DOMS typically only lasts a day or two, and although it’s uncomfortable, as you grow stronger and your fitness improves you should find your experience with DOMS changing too. Contrast that with the pain or soreness caused by injuries. If you’re finding the same part of your body is routinely painful after exercise, and the pain doesn’t go away after a few days, then you might be dealing with something that needs more than just a day or so’s rest. There could be problems with your warm ups, your technique, or your recovery time—so again, listen to your body. A localised pain that never seems to improve is well worth discussing with your PT or gym instructor.

It’s also worth remembering that there’s more to working out that just training your muscles. Your bones and nerves also have to deal with the extra workload, and every so often will need a good few days to recover properly before they’re ready to go again. People sometimes talk about feeling “tired in their bones”—a kind of all-encompassing tiredness that they can’t seem to overcome or ignore, and which starts to affect their training. If that sounds like you, and you’ve been pushing yourself super hard at the gym recently, you might need to let your whole body recover for a few days. Give yourself a well earned rest, and see how you feel in a week or so—chances are, you’ll come back to the gym stronger and with more energy than ever before!

via GIPHY

But what if things don’t improve? The muscle soreness and fatigue we’ve talked about here is one thing, but it is very different from other more serious causes of tiredness that can appear during changes to diet and exercise routines. If  you’re training a lot or changing your diet, be aware that dehydration and dietary imbalances can also cause a hard-to-get-over fatigue that feels different from the everyday tiredness caused just by doing more or sleeping poorly. If you’re experienced a whole-body tiredness alongside muddled thinking, slow reaction times, or a difficulty concentrating, then take stock not only of what you’re doing to your body, but what you’re putting into it. Are you getting enough protein to recover effectively from exercise? Are you getting enough iron to oxygenate your blood? Are you keeping yourself hydrated, and replacing the salts you lose when you sweat? This kind of tiredness needs more than a few days’ rest to get over, and you’ll be best off talking to a PT or your doctor if you think your diet or lifestyle might be to blame.

TIME OFF IS NOT TIME WASTED

But no matter how you feel, if you’re worried you’re going to lose those pre-Christmas gains you’ve made over the festive period, don’t panic. Depending on your level of fitness, studies have shown that it takes anything up to three weeks for any aerobic gains you’ve made to begin to deteriorate by any noticeable level. Even then, muscle strength, endurance and stamina are retained longer than aerobic power, as muscles can rebuild themselves with a kind of built-in “memory” of the kinds of exercises you’ve been putting them through. So all in all, a few days or weeks off over Christmas isn’t going to do you too much harm.

But if you’re still concerned that you’ll be wasting your time, just make sure you don’t. Use the time away from the gym to set yourself new goals—think about what you’ve achieved this year, and want to achieve next. Look at new techniques and exercises. Explore new fitness avenues you might want to go down in the New Year. Time off doesn’t have to be time wasted!

ENJOY! 

But no matter how you spend the holidays, have a very merry Christmas and a happy and healthy New Year from all at CK Elite! 

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