“Muscles are torn in the gym, fed in the kitchen and built in the bed!
Either we want it all or nothing at all!
It takes a great amount of motivation to push ourselves to get our muscles moving but once we start, we want to make up for all the time we didn’t.
We challenge ourselves every day to push harder, lift heavier or run for longer. And as a result, we eat lesser, rest lesser and recover even lesser. If exercise is to health, recovery from exercise is to vitality. We tell ourselves to be better each day but do we bother to ask ourselves some pertinent questions to become better?
Did I stretch today?
What would you do when if your child breaks into a fit of howls? Do you stuff a whole bar of candy down his throat or do you pick him up, hug him and soothe him down?
Your muscles have screamed their fibers off while you were killing it at the gym today, setting your marathon record or completing 108 suryanamaskars. But oops! You were so engrossed exalting at your workout victory that you forgot to stretch! Your muscles need a hug too. Balm them with gentle stretches and don’t rush through them; give a good 10 minutes to stretch and cool down for lowering your heart rate and preventing excessive soreness, before packing your bags for the day.
Did I break in between sets?
I can answer than on your behalf. “No!” because you were so busy setting new records for yourself that you forgot give a short break to your buddies right below your skin slogging their mitochondria out for you! A short burst of rest in between your exercise is required to prevent overstraining muscles due to continuous vigorous contractions.
Please have mercy on your muscles. Even a food processor comes with a disclaimer ‘please do not run it for more than 3 minutes at a stretch’!
Did I drink enough water?
You are losing salts, vitamins and most importantly hydration as you sweat through exercise sessions. There is no other option but to replace them. For muscle contraction, hypertrophy and basic systemic functions, water is the base medium for all biochemical reactions that involve salt channels. Post-workout and during it, your water bottle should be your second skin!
Did I sleep well?
As a Bangalorean, I am no alien to how life whizzes past in 24 hours without giving a moment to breathe. You start your day with intense workout, head to work, toil for 10 hours, beat the traffic, grab some dinner, get your home in order and if you have some time left, you devote it to sleep. This sleep cycle, for an average adult is not more than 5 hours a day, and for some even lesser. You know you have another long day waiting on the other side of your night-sleep, but what you don’t know is that your body is at its functional best only while you are asleep! Yes you heard it right. A good deep sleep, referred to as a non-REM sleep is extremely essential for recovering from the soreness of a hectic day. “Children grow more if they sleep more”, we have heard incessantly all our lives, yet we never bothered to understand why. We all have been fed with the constructive role of growth hormone for muscle building but what we were not told is that GH is secreted at its highest concentration only during a non-REM sleep. And that is when GH triggers a pathway for muscle hypertrophy and gives your fibers that extra bulge you notice next morning. Ergo, to see your muscles grow by 7mm, gift them with a good 7hours sleep!
Did I eat well through the day?
And how did you possibly think will a jet engine run on diesel? Again, we either under-eat hoping to magically convert fat into fog or over-eat to reward ourselves for the extra hours we burnt down at the gym. Either ways, we mess up the fuel we need to make our efforts pliable. Eat sufficiently and in the correct portions to beseech your muscles. If you are training hard to build strength and endurance, add the extra dash of proteins to your diet but don’t ignore the carbs. You need to fuel up for the next day as well. Don’t go for fad diets and shortcuts to reach your destination. There is always something fishy about the smoother roads!
Did I overtrain?
Ah! Now that is something everyone does but hates to admit. The have-it-all psychology again at play, you are pushing way-way too hard for your muscles to endure. And Snap! There is goes. Macrotears, stress fractures, muscle strains, and joint pain-injuries of varying types and intensities are as common to hear from fitness freaks as score inputs on an India-Pakistan match day! Either you have done too much to done something gravely wrong to end up with prolonged soreness and injuries. Either ways you leave your muscles more vulnerable than strong. Go slow; do it right, be consistent and steady, and gradually up your intensity. Sharpen your muscles, don’t shock them!
Did I take a day off?
Would you take up a handsomely paying job in your dream company, which expects you to work 7days a week? So basically you sit with a fat cheque on your desk but no offs on your calendar! I assume any sane human will not. So what’s with your invincible till-death-does-us-apart devotion towards workouts?
People expect to receive some gallantry award for running a non-stop streak in their exercise regimen. And believe it, it is anything but an accomplishment. All you are doing is tiring yourself out and abusing your body to achieve unrealistic life goals. You cannot go trotting interminably around the world in 30days and expect your BMW to take you on another excursion on the 31st! Rest your body for atleast a day every week. Do not indulge in any vigorous exercise except daily chores and moderate movements. It will infact invigorate you to perform better the next day because a rest day allows your muscles, nerves, bones, and connective tissue, some serious quality time to rebuild and get ready for the next strike. Your muscles need a day’s break from exercise just as much as you need a Sunday off your profession!
I follow a thumb rule: the quality of my rest day is directly proportional to the intensity of my exercises on the other days. so if I have trained insanely through the 6 days, I rest equally well on my day off. The next day gives me a mind-blowing surge of energy to lift 10kgs heavier on my squat bar!
Now isn’t Rest the Best exercise!
Did I listen to my body?
We listen to that gym mate who recently lost 10kgs in a month with a keto diet. We listen to that colleague who finished her 21k mark in 1.5hours. We listen in stupefying awe to that gym instructor with bulging muscles who swallows supplements like candies. We listen to youtube 30day-shred advice. We listen to everything and everyone, but our own bodies! Transforming bodies of others inspire us. But what actually should find us our purpose is what our bodies are capable of doing. We conveniently ignore signs of fatigue, excessive soreness and deprivation that our body constantly gives out. Being aware of how much we can and when to stop is the first rung of ladder to step on, after which, the ascent will be inevitable!
Did I rest my mind?
This one, the last but the paramount, is the crux of the matter. In process of losing weight or achieving our fitness goals, we lose our minds! Literally.
Drive to be healthy is good but desperation is totally unhealthy. Physiologically, the stress of achieving or the inability to reach the mark plays a havoc on our central nervous system. Mania and depression are two ends of the same spectrum of performance, any incapacity of which becomes unacceptable. And in case you didn’t know, say, you are eating clean, exercising regularly AND your answer to all the questions posed above is YES, despite it, if anything can actually deter your body to perform and exhibit desired results, stress is a hands-down winner!
Remember, Rest is as much a part of the plan