A successful exercise program is often a balance between cardiovascular exercise, strength training, and rest. While there are some professional athletes who choose to exercise every day, these elite few usually spent several years training with expert coaches, personal trainers, and physical therapists before reaching the capacity to exercise every day. Unless you are a professional competitor, it is reasonable to expect yourself to take at least one day off from exercise per week to let your body rest. Many people choose to take two or more days off exercise, depending on their personal fitness goals. Insufficient rest contributes to strained muscles, stress related injuries, and even depletion of muscle tissue. This collection of aches and injuries falls into a category called overtraining. Overtraining is preventable through scheduling rest days, alternating types of exercise, and monitoring the intensity of your workout.
Scheduling days off your exercise regimen can improve your workouts and expedite the results you want. Exercise tears down muscle fibers. The body rebuilds these torn fibers during rest periods. Different types of exercise tear down muscle tissue in different ways. Running and walking can safely occur for two or more consecutive days for the beginner as well as the advanced exerciser because the muscle fibers involved in running or walking break down differently than muscles used in weight lifting. Weight lifting can be performed for two or more consecutive days if different muscle groups are targeted each day. For example, you can spend an hour on lower body weight lifting one day and an hour on upper body the next day. However, it is best to schedule any weight lifting routines 48 hours apart if you are a beginner. A weekly schedule that includes two days of weight lifting, three days of cardiovascular exercise, and two days of rest might be organized as follows for a beginner: Day 1-cardio; Day 2-lower body weight lifting; Day 3-rest; Day4-cardio; Day 5-cardio; Day 6-upper body weight lifting; Day 7-rest.
Alternating the type of exercise you perform will prevent too much stress on any one group of muscles. If you walk or jog for two or more consecutive days, choose a flat route one day and a route with hills the next day. If you are walking or running on a track, switch directions by going clockwise one day and counterclockwise the next time you visit the track. If you plan to perform weight lifting on the lower body, perform a short walk or jog on a flat surface the day before you lift weights. If you exhaust the muscles by going long distances or covering hilly terrain the day before lifting weights, you increase the risk of sustaining injury during weight lifting. The intensity of your workout is perhaps the largest contributing factor to overtraining. Trying to cover too many miles, exercising too many hours, moving too quickly, and lifting too much weight can all contribute to overtraining.
Keeping a diary of your exercise will help monitor the intensity of your workouts. Include how far you ran or walked, or how long the aerobics class lasted. Note how much weight you lifted during every part of your weight lifting routine. If you are a beginner, increase the mileage by ten percent once every four weeks. For example, if you are running 20 miles per week, add two miles after four weeks. Then stay at 22 miles per week for four weeks before adding another two miles. If you measure cardiovascular exercise by time instead of distance, try adding ten minutes per month if your goal is endurance. If your goal is greater intensity during cardio, try adding five minutes of more difficult exercise per month. One way of doing this is increasing the speed for five minutes on the treadmill and then decreasing it to your usual pace for the rest of your workout. Increasing the difficulty of weight lifting can be accomplished in various ways.
If you want to increase the intensity of your weight lifting, increase the amount of weight one exercise at a time for lower body and one exercise at a time for upper body every three weeks. For example, you may choose to add five pounds to your squats during lower body and five pounds to your biceps during upper body. If you cannot complete all your repetitions with the new higher weight, try increasing by only two and a half pounds instead of five. When you have found a higher level of weight that is comfortable for you, maintain your new workout for three weeks and then increase the opposite group of muscles by the same amount of weight.
Muscles work in pairs. One part of the pair moves the body in one direction and the other part of the pair moves in the opposite direction. The quadriceps in the front of the thigh help move the leg forward. The hamstring muscles in the back of the thigh help move the leg backward. If you increased squats, you increased weight for the quadriceps muscles, among others. Increase hamstrings next. If you increased biceps, increase triceps next. This will keep the level of strength in both muscle groups reasonably even and prevent overtraining injuries due to unequal strength in the pair of muscles.
Two more beneficial activities are stretching before and after exercise, and consulting a professional. Many books and multimedia applications contain illustrations and sometimes photographs or video of persons performing the stretching or exercise correctly. Often these sources contain examples of the correct posture for weight lifting as well. Use several sources to find stretches that target all the major muscle groups used in the exercise you will be performing. Incorporate those techniques before you exercise as part of your warm up. Do the same with a set of stretches intended for post-exercise cool down. If you visit a gym, find out which personal trainers would like to take on new clients for a few sessions. These professionals will coach you through every part of your exercise routine and allow you to make notes so you can develop an exercise plan and continue on without them after a few personal training sessions. They may also offer the opportunity to revisit your exercise plan after you have been working on your own for a few months.