From time-to-time, I meet a personal training client who has an 'over-training' issue. When I say this to them, they often look askance at me. They think it's only professional sportsmen and women who over-train but, in fact, the pro sportspeople are generally so carefully managed by so many experts it very seldom happens.
The fact is it's often the ordinary fitness fanatic or gym junkie who is in danger of over-training. Why?
Very often, it's because people become obsessed with 'doing' something physically active each day. For some people, they can almost go crazy at the thought of missing a day of a workout, even amongst an uber-packed schedule.
But a rest day is important and there's an evidence-base to why this is the case.
When you're not at the gym or working out hard, your body repairs the muscles and replenishes your energy. This is necessary to allow you to return to 100% peak form so when you start exercising again, your return on perspiration investment (ROPI) will be even greater. For example, if you workout at a gym doing weights, you should have at least 48-hours rest before the next weights session.
Mental fatigue also saps motivation and if you feel like you "must" go to the gym or go for that run, you feel like it's another pressure in your life - rather than something at which you work hard but which actually makes you feel good.
I say to my clients that, if they want to work really hard, I'll take them for two, but definitely no more than three, sessions each week - as I push people hard. On another two days, they should do something themselves such as walking, yoga, pilates, golf, tennis. I recommend at least one day of rest each week, but preferably two - depending on how hard they train in the rest of the week.
On the days of rest, I recommend that people who otherwise exercise hard and well, do have a rest; forget about exercise - other than something gentle like a slow walk; and do something else entirely.
It may sound like a cliche, but the best idea is to listen to your body and your mind.
If either are asking for a break, give yourself one. In both the short and long-term, making sure you get rest amongst your fitness routine will do more good than harm.