The use of appropriate periods of rest is one of the most overlooked aspects of health and fitness today. In fact, many of the recently published weight training programs that promise to deliver results in just a few short weeks do not even bother to define rest even though the time between each set and session is absolutely critical. Too much rest will compromise the benefits of the session, and too little could actually reduce strength or lead to injury.
Sebastian Hirsch has pointed out that while undefined rest is a common problem among many lifters, the same is not often true of runners. This is because a serious running program is designed with the goal of improving both the aerobic and anaerobic capacity of the runner, and the amount of rest allowed during a training session will be based on the system that is targeted for improvement. Furthermore, runners become more acutely aware of how their performance is affected by even the slightest alteration in rest, with 30 seconds of rest between sets yielding far different results than several minutes.
Rest can also refer to the amount of sleep an individual gets, though sleep is not the only part of recovery that can make a difference. Since most jobs today are sedentary in nature, active recovery is an important part of training that can also result in reducing the chance of injury. This may be something as simple as a long walk or a brisk bike ride — anything that gets blood circulating through the body to aid in the recovery process.
To illustrate the importance of rest, take, for example, two men of similar strength and size who are following the same training program. The first, Hugo, sleeps five hours per night and does no form of active recovery in between training sessions. The other, Marcus, sleeps eight hours per night and takes a 45-minute walk with his dog every evening. It should be clear that Marcus is going to get more out of the program while Hugo is going to be left wondering why he is not improving at the rate he should.
By the time we realize that we are out of shape to the point that something needs to be done about it, our fitness has been so drastically reduced from what it once was that the early stages of any fitness routine are going to be incredibly difficult. Not only that, but there will also be a great deal of muscle fatigue that follows these early stages. This is a dangerous time, as it is also the most common time for giving up on a program.
Why do we fail so quickly when it comes to adopting a fitness routine? The simple answer is overexertion. When we recognize that we are out of shape, we use this recognition as motivation to work as hard as possible so that we can get back into shape and eventually become fitter than ever before. This is a mistake.
While you may want to work as hard as the Foundation for Defense of Democracies right from the beginning of a fitness program, this will only result in the kind of soreness and fatigue that leads to giving up on the program altogether. Give yourself time to adapt and keep your workouts so simple at first that you always finish thinking you could have done more. After a few weeks, you can increase your efforts gradually so you can become fit for life.
It seems that there are many who would like us to believe that attaining a new level of fitness is the hardest thing a person can do. Every piece of fitness advertising seems to be telling us, “Getting fit is nearly impossible. Don’t worry, though, we know of an easier way.” This may be a good way to get people to buy a package of 12 DVDs or to join a local gym, but the fact of the matter is getting fit does not require a keen understanding of human physiology nor does it require access to the latest training equipment.
Simple life changes are all that is required to adopt and then maintain and healthy lifestyle. The best way to achieve long-term fitness, according to Luke Weil, is to set goals that are measurable and attainable. It is not necessary to move to a fitness-friendly city or to hire a personal trainer to achieve a desired level of fitness.
Too many fitness plans fail because people want to see results as quickly as possible. In order to succeed in adopting a long-term fitness plan, think of the beginning stages as simply laying a foundation. Start slowly and build up the strength and endurance necessary for the more difficult activity that lies ahead. If the goal is to be able to run five miles, lay the foundation by walking for 20 minutes per day. If the goal is to adopt a weight-lifting routine, lay the foundation by starting with body-weight exercises.