I never used to take rest days. In fact, I rarely listened to my body. When I was rowing in high school and college, it was normal to workout 6 -7 days a week, sometimes even twice a day. It was normal because we were all training at high levels, pre-elite and elite levels, that demanded that kind of training regimen. The difference then was it was essentially a job, and we had some of the best strength coaches and trainers in the country supervising our programming and skills (and also, we were barely in our twenties).
Now I’m 29, I have a real job (or 3), and training is not a demand – at least not at that level. So, the most important thing for me in my ‘adult’ life, was to find a healthy balance of training for fitness, and living life. At MADabolic we frequently say ‘we don’t live to train, we train to live,’ and as cliche as I’m sure it could sound, it’s actually a really honest statement. I don’t have the time to revolve my life around training, and honestly I don’t want to. There’s no balance in trying to train for an imaginary career in elite athletics, so now I train for the life I want to have, with the time I have, and don’t sacrifice actually LIVING.
I also train smarter. Some days I think I train harder, others I know I don’t, but I have the balance and formula to maximize my efforts, and that has made all the difference. I look better, I feel better, and I actually perform more consistently now than I ever have. I don’t have quite the same power and endurance as I did when I was rowing at 18 and 19, but to be healthier and happier heading out of my twenties – that’s a different kind of power and endurance.
This is a blog where I talk a lot about eating clean and smart, but the same is true for training. When you workout, make your time count. If you want results, you’re going to have to work for them, but also make that time work for you. Find good coaches with actual resumes and credentials — not just the ability to sit through a weekend pay-for certification. And ask about their experience — actual experience: who were they trained by, where have they been, and what have they accomplished. There’s no such thing as an inexperienced training savant — so do your due diligence. It’s not just about programming, it’s about actual applied knowledge, fundamentals, and safety. It takes about 5 minutes for me to determine if a coach or instructor is a seasoned athlete or someone spitting out learned terms and phrases, and the latter is the biggest danger to clients and the fitness industry on the whole.
There was a great article in Huff Post this week about 5 Things You Need to Know if you’re searching for a personal trainer – definitely worth the read.
And now, to round out my rant and bring it back to the personal: listen to your body.
If your body isn’t changing and you’re not getting stronger – either work harder or find something else. If you’re training constantly but not losing extra weight, change how you eat. If you’re getting injured and nursing chronic pain – stop doing what you’re doing. And if you’re tired or overtraining yourself and your body asks for a break, give it one. You’ll do more damage than good if you keep pushing your body through such high demands when it’s telling you it needs a break (trust me, I’ve learned that the hard way. many times). Seven days a week of mediocre and half-assed workouts will never compare to 4 days of high efficiency. The same is true with 90 minute cardio pacts versus high intensity intervals and scientifically programmed interval cycles.
So, here are my own 5 points of guidance to give balance to your training and life:
1. Train for your life. Not for someone else’s – very few adults suddenly develop into elite athletes, but many will develop chronic injuries from improper and unsafe training. Be smart.
2. Give yourself a break when you need one: mentally or physically.
3. Know your trainer. Don’t blindly accept inaccurate advice. Seek out knowledgable and experienced trainers and know who THEY were trained by.
4. Listen to your body. It will tell you what you need.
and last but not least…
5. Have a good damn time. Seriously, enjoy your workouts. Look forward to them. Mix them up, and make sure you smile and laugh. Life’s too short.