Overtraining: Improve Your Performance by Taking a Break!

Whether preparing for a body building competition, a triathlon, or a speedy 5k, rest is the often forgotten component of a balanced training program, even among seasoned athletes.

Roy Cohen, a mindful exercise expert, reports that in his thirty years of working with recreational athletes to elite runners, he estimates that over 50% train too hard. He notes that over-training involves eating and sleeping too little, as well as taking too few days off from intense exercise.

Why does your body need rest days? Put simply, it has to rebuild.

Muscles require anywhere from 24 to 48 hours to recover and strengthen themselves and jumping back into your workouts too quickly doesn’t allow tissue to be repaired. This is particularly true when doing resistance exercise, which causes tiny tears in the muscles. In addition, rest is vital to restore energy and hydration.

A lack of rest can cause serious consequences – none of which are desirable when you have a big event in mind. Many athletes who fail to incorporate adequate rest end up with what some call overtraining syndrome. Overtraining occurs when athletes push too hard for too long and can result in physical and mental exhaustion, chronic soreness, decreased immune system functioning, and, yes… decreased performance.

This isn’t to mention the potential risk for serious injury, such as muscle or joint damage, which could leave you completely sidelined. The Wall Street Journal reports that up to 25% of marathoners never make it to the race, many due to injuries and exhaustion.

To go into your next event stronger and more powerful, ensure that you understand the benefits and various types of rest. You’ll see the benefits in your mental state and your personal record.

Ashley Solomon, Psy.D

I am a therapist who specializes in the treatment of eating disorders, body image, trauma, and serious mental illness. Visit Dr. Solomon's body image blog, nourishing-the-soul.com.

6 thoughts on “Overtraining: Improve Your Performance by Taking a Break!

  • October 7, 2010 at 9:15 am

    Rest and recuperation and is a must for all people who are heavy into fitness.

    Letting the body recover is what it needs after a hard training session.

    Nice post : )

    RH Martial Fitness

  • October 7, 2010 at 5:27 am


    that is an interesting advice. I’m suffering from that too, but I can’t really work out only once every two days. I feel like I’m getting lazy when doing that :)

    • October 7, 2010 at 1:35 pm

      Slava, I sometimes find it hard to not feel lazy as well when I take off some time from exercise. But sometimes it’s the best thing we can do for our body! Thanks for your comment!

  • October 6, 2010 at 5:01 pm

    Ashley, years ago, I used to compete in several sports including bicycle racing. At the time, I fell victim to overtraining for various reasons. When you’re a competitive athlete, surprisingly it can be challenging to take time off from training to rest.

    • October 7, 2010 at 1:34 pm

      I agree. I think we have it in our minds that continuous pushing equals success, and then it’s hard to recognize the value of rest.


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