Fitness is a journey, says Robert Reames, a Gold’s Gym fitness expert. Pushing yourself to work hard in the gym is one half of the equation. The other half is learning the importance of rest days, recovery days and how to use them to pace yourself as you work toward your goals.
“You’re not going to be able to do everything right away, and you don’t have to,” Reames says. “As long as you maintain consistency and motivation, you’ll get there.”
Three reasons for burning out
When you start your fitness journey, you might find yourself losing momentum after a couple of months. This is what’s commonly known as the “fitness cliff”: the point, about nine weeks in, when new members come to the gym 50 percent less than they did at the start of their journey.
Reames says there are three reasons this may happen:
- “You’ve been going too hard and are physically worn out.”
- “Your workouts are monotonous and boring.”
- “You’re doing things you don’t enjoy.”
Our experts can help you create a balanced plan, with workout variety that incorporates rest and recovery to help you avoid the fitness cliff.
The importance of rest days
People starting out or coming back to the gym after a long time away tend to work out too hard, too fast. Making time for rest and recovery will help you avoid injury and burnout.
“When you’re at the gym, by all means use that time to work hard,” Reames says. “But even professional athletes will tell you that recovery time is just as important.”
He recommends that a person who works out five or six days per week designate one day for a recovery workout.
For example, if you are doing high-intensity, training-level cardio workouts Sunday through Thursday, on Friday do a moderate treadmill workout or take a walk outside.
“You’re still moving, but you’re taking away that intensity, making it more soothing mentally and physically,” Reames says.
Depending on your routine, other recovery options could be an easy bodyweight workout, a yoga class or stretching before and after your workouts.
He also recommends taking one day a week “to just chill.”
Create workout variety
A comprehensive fitness plan will focus on strength, cardio and flexibility. The 24 to 48 hours after a targeted workout, when the muscles recover, is when you see results, Reames says.
Make sure your muscles get that recovery time by following a plan with variety and targeted workout rotation.
“Focus one day on the upper body, the next on the lower body, and the next on your core,” he explains. “If you focus on the same thing every day, you’re not going to get great results.”
You’re also likely to get bored.
“Mixing it up will break the monotony,” he says. “That helps you from getting mentally burned out.” Do what you like, with people you like
To stay dedicated to your goals and help avoid burnout, Reames says to “pick something you like so you have something to look forward to.”
For a lot of people, that means joining a group exercise class or finding a gym buddy to work out with.
“Workout buddies are great motivators,” he says. “Everyone has stuff come up. Life happens. Your pals are there to welcome you back and keep you going if you start to fall off track.”
See more health and fitness tips on our blog:
To See Results, Start With a 30-Day Plan
What to Expect in Your Next Group Exercise Classes
Find Your Fitness Partner