What is Workout Fatigue & How to know when your Body is telling you to Rest

Fitness Education

So you’re either looking at this blog thinking “I can’t have workout fatigue if I’m not even working out right now” or “wow they must be talking to me but I’m afraid to take a day off and fall off track so this blog is bull****”.

No matter what you are saying in your head, just remember to have patience with yourself (and give us a chance to convince you that you may need a rest day and why).   Also, how can you know something you don’t know?  If you aren’t sure where to get started in your fitness journey or maybe you are on your fitness journey, but not sure how to structure your workout plan we are here to help!  But today’s topic is focused around workout fatigue and knowing when to take a break and HOW to take an effective break.

So I don’t know about you, but when I’m feeling good I’m FEELING GOOD!  We are working out every day, drinking water, less takeout, and feeling strong. Then the weekend rolls around and your friend asks if you want a tequila shot that turns into multiple.  Before you know it, Sunday morning you’re feeling rough, but you force yourself to attend that 10am group fitness class instead of sleep to “work off” the calories from all those margs and nachos you ate last night.  So when is working out too much?  When and if should we take a break?  And what type of strategy should we follow?

One approach to workout fatigue is waiting until you feel workout fatigue.  This is when you start a workout and within 5 minutes you feel this draining of energy over your body, your limbs feel sore, and you can barely pick up a 5 pound dumbbell (or maybe burping up those tequila shots from last night).   Your body is telling you to SLOW DOWN and take a day off.  Another way of cross checking your body needs some rest if your resting heart rate starts to increase over time.  Your body is LITERALLY telling you it’s in overdrive.  You can use the old fashion hold two fingers on your wrist every morning when you wake up and track it that way or a more modern approach like a wearable fitness watch that is tracking your resting heart rate.  Knowing where your resting heart rate typically is will help you with managing your body and knowing when it’s time to take a break.

Another approach is to conduct your workouts in Phases.  One way we like to do it at Klasik Fit is work through a Phase and then take a deload week.  In this instance, let’s say Phase 1 is 4 weeks long.  Over those 4 weeks, we are going to focus on our workouts progressively getting harder week over week.  So if you are strength training, slowly increase your weight each week.  If you are doing cardio activities or high intensity training, move faster or longer each week.  Once Phase 1 is complete, you will go through 1 Deload week.  Your deload week is a week you pull back from “the pushing” feeling.  You can do bodyweight only exercises or light weight if you typically do strength training, you can do yoga instead of cycling or go for a walk each day with maybe some shorter workouts focused on mobility.  After your deload week, you can enter into Phase 2 where you start with where you were halfway through your last phase and progress over the 4 weeks to a place you have not been yet!  If you are someone that thrives on routine and structure, this might be the best route for you.  But remember, you do not have to wait until the deload week to take a break!  If your body is telling you to rest or pull back prior to your schedule, then don’t feel guilty about it.  Shift the game plan and shorten the phase you are currently in.

Finally, the last option is to take rest days when you feel like it!  Sometimes when I’m up late at night, I’m planning my workout for the next day and getting pumped to jump on my yoga mat and complete that hour long vinyasa yoga flow to wake up in the morning and my husband says “Do you want to drink coffee together and then take Fluffy for a walk?” and the answer is (most of the time) yes!  Feeling guilty or HAVING to have a plan is not the goal here.  The goal is to find what works for you and know it’s OK to not go hard in the paint every day.

So the important question here….why do we need to take rest days?!  I mean we already know you’re a savage, but let’s talk about the benefits of slowing things down for a day or a week.  Number one, your body needs time to heal!  Your muscles are fatigued, your brain is getting cloudy, your body is screaming for that extra 30 minutes of sleep.  When we push ourselves, not only are we not going to see progress, but it increases our chance of injury.  When we are well rested, we are able to push harder, faster, and longer and be in control of our bodies.

Let’s also talk about this concept of “outworking” your calories.  If you workout more, yes you may be “burning” more calories, but you are also going to be hungrier so in turn you will eat more calories to replenish what you have lost.  On the other hand, if you are not eating enough & starving, you will also struggle to lose and/or maintain weight, but most importantly will not be able to build muscle.  So if you’re thinking “Well I’m trying to be toned”, the term “toned” basically means building muscle and cutting fat so you can see the muscle.  In order to build muscle, your body needs food!…also a conversation topic for another day.

So long story short, maybe we convinced you to start taking some rest days 🙂 And remember, rest days, deload weeks, whatever you want to call them, you don’t have to stop moving!  The movement you do just allows your body to re-set, heal, and come back stronger than ever.