Take a Break – The Importance of Rest

Tired? Having a hard time waking up in the morning? Motivation slipping? Workout intensity dropping? Hit a plateau or getting weaker?

These are the signs you may need to take a break. Not a day or two, but a full week.

If you’ve been following my Spartan Race training program, Week 7 is your week to take it easy. Although taking a break may seem like you’re not being productive and missing out, but trust me when you return back to training you’ll be more motivated and stronger than ever. Taking a break and time to recover is just as important as any other aspect of a good training program.


You don’t get stronger and faster in the gym, it happens outside of it. Inside the gym your body is stimulated for change. Outside of gym, it rebuilds itself. So the next time it encounters similar stimuli it is able to perform as efficiently as possibly.

To truly get your body ready for change, you need to keep on challenging it with new intensity, focus, new movements and executing proper form.  But all your progress will be thwarted if you don’t get proper rest. Following an intense workout program, day in and day out can take a toll on your body and mental state leading to overtraining.

Overtraining is a physical, behavioral, and emotional condition that occurs when the volume and intensity of an individual’s exercise exceeds their recovery capacity. They cease making progress, and can even begin to lose strength and fitness. Overtraining is a common problem in weight training, but it can also be experienced by runners and other athletes.1

Overtraining is different from the tiredness or soreness you may feel the next day or two, it persists for a long time.  Overtraining can be most commonly described as a ‘burnout.’ Once you start using that word to describe how you’re feeling, then you’ve entered the overtraining zone.

Why You Need To Rest

Once you enter the overtraining zone, your recovery will be longer than you think. It will also be harder for you to get back into the swing of things again. That’s why it’s crucial to identify signs of overtraining to:

  • avoid burnout
  • avoid injury
  • avoid losing motivation

Basically, taking a week off from trainng is a time for you to recharge, both physically and mentally; and take care of others things that you may have neglected during your training regiment.  Your week off is also an opportunity for you to catch up on study material, books or other side projects.

Signs of Overtraining

It’s a fitness axiom that you should break from your training regiment every 6-8 weeks.  Unfortunately, it is difficult to pinpoint where that principle hails from, but it has worked for me. But there’s a possibility you could hit the overtraining earlier than that or sometimes even later.  So, how do you know if you’re overtraining? There are dozens of signs of overtraining, but here are the most common ones as identified by Michael Gleeson2:

  • Underperformance
  • Muscle weakness
  • Chronic fatigue
  • Sore muscles
  • Increased perceived exertion during exercise
  • Reduced motivation
  • Sleep disturbance
  • Increased early morning or sleeping heart rate
  • Altered mood states (e.g. low scores for vigour;
  • Increased scores for fatigue and depression)
  • Loss of appetite
  • Gastrointestinal disturbance
  • Recurrent infection

Type of Rest

So, what do you do with your time off? How do you properly rest? That depends on the type of training you’ve endured. I, for example, instead of waking up at 5am, I lay in about half hour longer. This is to ensure I maintain my wake up window as close as possible to training days.

Instead of hitting the gym, I head start my day on work emails or catch up on personal projects. Sometimes I’ll do a long walk or participate in other low impact and low intensity physical activities later in the evening.

I know you’re determined and a hard worker, but if you want to make real gains you need to rest. Listen to your body.

Take it easy for a week.


  1. “Overtraining – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.” 2005. 24 Apr. 2013 http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Overtraining
  2. Gleeson, Michael. “Biochemical and immunological markers of overtraining.” Journal of Sports Science and Medicine 1 (2002): 31-41.