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“STOP EXERCISING… From Time To Time”

You’ve gone through bariatric surgery, you are seeing the weight come off and you’re super motivated to workout and build the life you want. This is all great stuff but don’t let that motivation get the best of you in terms of rest. I know you want to keep improving your weight loss, or get it back if you’ve hit a plateau but read below to see why rest is important and should be apart of your workout plan.

In my last two articles, I discussed why you should exercise with a focus on strength training and how your training affects different muscles. What I didn’t discuss in depth was the concept of rest. There are a few different types of rest when it comes to exercise. There is rest between sets of exercises, rest between workouts and rest between training plans. How do these three differ, and how do they impact your fitness?

Rest between sets of exercises

This rest affects your performance during your training session and helps dictate what energy source you will use. In February, I wrote about the different types of weight training – strength and endurance – and how they have common parameters that are used, one of which is rest between sets. The reason for this is how the body uses different energy sources to help move the muscle.

When you are focusing on strength training – that is, lifting heavy weights a few repetitions at a time – you need to add in a longer rest period. The reason for this is because of the energy source that your muscles use for this type of work: creatine phosphate. Creatine phosphate is used up fast and takes a long time (2+ minutes) to start to recover. Additionally, heavy lifting puts a strain on your central nervous system – which requires time to reset to allow for maximum contraction of the muscles. So in order to get through these heavy sets, you need to give yourself a longer rest to get the most from each lift.

For endurance weight training, things are different. This type of work is done with lighter weights for many repetitions. The goal here is to get your muscles to build more mitochondria, which primarily supports the change of fat into energy. The challenge is that fat is one of the last sources that the body will go to for its main source of energy, so the rest intervals need to be much shorter so your body will continue to burn the fat. Endurance training also affects a type of muscle that is more able to withstand a large number of contractions. In order to build up this type of muscle, you need to force more contractions – giving it less rest, which in turn creates a need to adapt and grow to overcome future fatigue.

Rest between workouts

Few people are aware that your body doesn’t build muscle while you work out; it builds it when you rest. Since you should be focusing part of your workouts to limiting the muscle mass loss that comes with weight loss surgery, giving yourself at minimum one rest day a week will do more for your ability to build muscle, strength and endurance than any one workout. Muscle building workouts done right will produce micro-tears in the muscle fibers which, in turn, promote muscle growth. This is called the overload principle  which is all about pushing yourself a bit during your workouts. This stresses the muscles and if you don’t give it a rest day or two the body can’t recover from this. 

Psychologically, adding in a day off once a week is also a smart thing to do. This is really important if you’re still in the “I hate it but I’ve got to do it” stage of exercise. By knowing that you have a rest day coming up, you are better able to push through the week.

Rest between Training Plans

This rest stage doesn’t get mentioned as much as the others — but taking time away from your training for a week to 10 days once or twice a year actually beneficial. This is really important if you have been sticking to a plan that has been challenging and has become progressively difficult. The purpose of this rest is similar to your once a week (or more) rest day; to give your body and mind time to recover. Yet this rest is probably the most difficult one for people to adhere to. If this is the case for you, then doing a few light workouts during this time is okay but again the intent of this is to give your body a break. There is some research to back this rest stage up as well. It has been shown to have an overall improvement in long-term muscle growth and strength. This rest stage is also a good time to make any changes you may have concerning goals, or better yet, to give you some time to just go have fun and not worry about exercise for a while.

Although it may seem counter intuitive, rest is a vital part of your exercise program and necessary to ensure the maximum amount of benefit for your physical and mental health.

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