Train or Rest?
The endless dilemma - You’re tired. You need some energy. But you need some sleep. But you want to workout. But you’re tired. So. Freaking. Tired. How do you decide what to do? Should you exercise or not?
For me personally, it depends first and foremost on what type of tired I am. (Nothing says you’re getting old like having ‘types of tired’, but yet here I am, 46, with just as many types of tired!) Sometimes I know straightaway I need rest (I actually need sleep but it never seems to come when I try), while other types scream, “Let’s workout! - it’ll give you the energy you need and you’ll sleep better tonight!” Those are the far ends of the spectrum, though. It’s all the points in between that make the decision more complex.
The science on sleep is plentiful, but essentially
Sleep is important & sleep deprivation is bad for you
The average Adult should aim for 7+ hours of sleep per night
Poor sleep affects both cognitive and athletic performance
Poor sleep can lead to increased likelihood of injuries and illness (as it impairs your immune system).
Many people forget that sleep is just as important as proper nutrition and exercise. And while there is plenty of research that tells us that sleep is good for us and that exercise is good for us (and good for sleep), there is no data to help us answer the endless dilemma. What we need to remember is that when our body is tired and run down, it cannot function at its full potential.
We know that being too tired to train, but doing it anyway can lead to injuries and illness, did you also know that it can result in your body doing the opposite of what you are training to achieve. If you are continually training when you are too tired, or for too long, or too much, your body releases large amounts of cortisol (your stress hormone). Not only can this damage your body long-term, but it may cause your body to plateau, to stop the strength/speed gains and to hold onto fat rather than lose it.
So how do you decide if you need to rest? I've been facing this daily for a while now..
Training is obviously a huge part of my life and my job, and something I am very passionate about, but I'm tired, I can't remember the last time I had over 7 hours of sleep. In all honesty I feel like I'm floating along in a bubble of fatigue that I just can't pop!
So after a rubbish nights sleep and faced with the decision to exercise or not, I often gravitate to my norm (exercise), thinking it’ll give me more energy, or might make me sleep better later?
However, recently as sleep has been harder to find, I’ve started listening to what my body is telling me and have started asking myself some questions to better inform my decision…..
How much sleep did I actually get last night?
How fatigued am I?
How hard have I already trained this week?
Any aches, pains, or injuries? Will my body benefit more from resting rather than working on top of aches, pains?
Am I feeling run down?
How am I feeling emotionally?
Am I mentally distracted?
Will this form of exercise help me sleep better tonight?
How will skipping this workout make me feel later?
Is my ego getting in my way? Am I just trying to push myself to prove something? (What? and to who? 🤦🏼♀️)
What can I do instead? - sometimes a less intense exercise is what I need, and sometimes sitting on the sofa with a cup of tea is an even better option and I need to feel ok with that.
Questions aside, I’ve learned that if I’m at a point where I am questioning if I should rest or not, it’s usually an indication that I need to! The indecision is usually my ego just trying to prove itself as an overachieving hustler at the expense of the rest that my body REALLY needs.
I firmly believe that the more you pay attention, take note, really listen, the more you’ll know exactly what your body needs and the endless dilemma will answer itself.
Now I just need to get some decent sleep and get back to everything I love and more.
Health & Happiness