I am a creature of repetitive habits and rituals. I go crazy if I don’t stick to my super strict regimen and schedule. I tend to push myself more than one should, and to no real purpose really. And recently I’ve realized I’ve done that with my training at the gym, and it is hurting my performance in the dance studio.
Now you may have read my New Years Gym Resolutions, where I stated I would train longer, harder, and more consistently. Well I also said I would stretch and rest more. And that has not happened much. I also haven’t been very good about hitting my macros and especially carbs. Still definitely under-eating for the amount that I train in the gym and burn working in a dance studio. I honestly haven’t even really been trying. I’ve just been running running running like a guinea pig on a wheel. I also haven’t been sleeping much lately which doesn’t help.
So the result? I’ve been hurting like hell lately! Everything hurts. My muscles are sore. My joints are stiff. I’m so exhausted mentally and physically all the time, and it was starting to show at work.
This past Friday and Saturday we had a Pro Rhythm couple, Joe and Natalie, in the studio for coaching. This is a couple I very much admire, especially Natalie, because she is another female pro with my similar body shape..T hey coached my boss and I on our new Int’l Rumba routine that we are currently working on.
Our first hour with them was Friday night after I had gone to the gym that morning and then taught a full day of dancing. So when I went to go take my first Rumba walk, I honestly felt like I was going to fall over. My legs were literally and very noticeably shaking, and my joints were locking up. I couldn’t concentrate on posture or core. With every step I felt like I was going to fall. And I was already nervous to be dancing in front of them in the first place.
Then of course the negative thoughts kicked in: that I am not good enough to be considered a “pro” (I am a pro because I teach, but I am still very new, and often I don’t feel like a pro, but rather an am – I will discuss this more at a later time). I told myself that my dancing sucks, and that I was so incredibly embarrassed to be dancing this poorly in front of two of my favorite pros.
Thursday and Friday night I only going 3-4 hours of sleep. I showed up early Saturday morning so I could stretch and warm up, but my performance was even worse Saturday morning on the coaching. I was so angry with myself, and I broke down in the middle of the coaching and started crying. I mostly watched the rest of the coaching, and I was so incredibly embarrassed.
I went home. Went to the gym. Forced myself to go out dancing Saturday night even though I really just wanted to be home alone. But I thought: I haven’t got much cardio in today so I should go (yes I said this to myself after coming home from the gym and dance that morning). Sunday I napped and went to the gym still.
Monday morning I woke up, and before even getting out of bed I told myself: “I can’t go to the gym this morning.” My body was screaming at me to take a rest day. I was so sore and mentally exhausted from what I have put my body through in the last month.
Look at the difference in my performance and leg line from the first most recent photo, and the second photo from a year ago. I felt much better physically a year ago than I did in this past December showcase.
So I decided I’m not taking a rest day. I am taking a rest week. Because my training has gotten in the way of my dancing and my job. And also your body builds muscle during periods of rest. So really I’ve just been running myself into the ground for no reason, and actually probably tearing muscle down more than building.
I did not really have a goal with my gym training. It was vague. I had some specific goals like wanting to do 5 chin ups. But why? I already have a very toned dancer’s body. I said it would be good for me to gain a few pounds, but yet I haven’t even really gotten my macros up to a high enough maintenance for my activity level.
So what am I accomplishing by going to the gym 5 days a week in addition to my dance training?
I am a creature of ritualistic habit, and by not going I feel guilty. But I shouldn’t. Because I am actually doing my body more good by skipping out on the gym and allowing full recovery and muscle growth. Again if you keep beating your body up, it never has the time to rest, recover, and build muscle. Because muscle growth occurs during the rest period after the gym, not during.
Benefits of Rest Week
- Allows your muscles to fully recover and build muscle. Your muscles shouldn’t always be sore. If they are then you are just constantly breaking them down, and never building muscle.
- You will probably be able to do more when you get back to the gym after a week break because of number 1. If your muscles are always sore, then you can’t perform at 100%. Do you want your performance to always be sub-par? I bet when you get back to the gym you will be surprised at how much energy you have and how much stronger you feel. You’re not going to lose any muscle mass after only a week off.
- Give yourself a mental break from training. Do you ever feel like you’re not mentally focused during a training session? That’s how I’ve felt lately. I haven’t been able to perform 100% because both my body and mind are exhausted. It’s like I just show up to the gym and go through the motions, so I’m maintaining the “habit” of going to the gym, but there’s no drive. You should feel more motivated and focused after taking a week off.
- Let go of the idea that you “have to” go to the gym and if you don’t, you feel guilty. You should not feel guilty for skipping a gym workout. Now if you are a beginner, it is good to push yourself to create that habit of going to the gym consistently. But if you are already an avid gym goer, sometimes it’s better to listen to your body and mind to allow time for rest. And you should NOT FEEL GUILTY for breaking your gym schedule. It’s okay. Just remember, you will probably build more muscle by staying home.
- Take the extra time to get some sleep and rest. Protein synthesis occurs during sleep. So if you’re lacking sleep (like I have been lately) then your body won’t get time to rest, recover, and build muscle. So instead of your morning gym workout, take a mid morning nap (like I did yesterday :D).
- Extra Pro Tip: Don’t decrease your food intake dramatically on your rest days. Some people are on a specific carb cycling program, or another “cut program”, but even bodybuilders on a cut take a re-feed day. But you still want to intake carbs and proteins to build muscle on your rest days. And fats are good for your hormones, brain function, and digestion so don’t cut those out either! Your body needs calories to function and build muscle. So if you decrease your macros during rest, you are only doing yourself more harm.