You often hear the adage “No pain, no gain,” and to a certain extent, it’s true. Whether you’re trying to get in shape or training for a marathon, performing at your best is going to require pushing through some discomfort. There are times, however, when it’s unwise to keep going.
- Training is important, but training too intensely can actually lead to poor performance and even injury. There’s a wealth of evidence indicating the importance of building rest days into your schedule, in order to improve performance. Over-training can actually be detrimental not only to your conditioning, but also your overall health.
- If you’re ill, take a sick day. The only way for your body to recuperate from an illness is through rest, so make sure that you at least take it easy when you’re under the weather. In fact, experts suggest taking the day off entirely if you’re running a fever, because elevated temperatures cause your body to require more oxygen than it normally does—about 10% more for each degree above normal.
- Female athletes should be especially careful. Women who train too intensely, especially those who limit their calorie intake, can develop long-term health complications, including amenorrhea, which can lead to osteoporosis, infertility, and heart disease. Experts urge female athletes not to accept the loss of the menstrual cycle as an inevitable result of training; just by making slight reductions in intensity and increasing caloric intake, women are often able to regain their regular cycles and improve health while maintaining physical performance.
- Perhaps the most important piece of advice is to avoid training through pain. Muscle soreness from overuse signals a need for rest, because tired muscles can lead to injury, which can result in a lengthy recovery. Listen to your body, and pay attention to whether your pain is localized or radiating, and whether it flares up at the beginning, in the middle, or at the end of an exercise session. When in doubt, consult with a medical professional who can help you determine the source of your pain, and whether it requires a break from your training routine.
- Form matters when training. Moving improperly can cause or increase pain, and can make you vulnerable to injury. Make sure you’re training intelligently, using good form and technique.
Remember, you won’t improve more quickly by training beyond your body’s limits. By using proper technique and stopping when your body tells you it’s time to stop, you’ll be able to reach your goals more quickly than if you push too hard and end up with an injury. Train smarter, not harder, and you’ll soon be in peak condition.