Why breaks are so important to make progress
If you want to make progress in your training, you have to train regularly. This applies equally to endurance and coordination or strength training. However, the importance of training breaks, which the organism needs to build up strength – in the literal sense – is often underestimated.
We all know it: full of euphoria about the fitness goals we have set, we throw ourselves into implementing the new training plan, because after all we want to get in shape for our next vacation or strengthen our muscles for the upcoming sporting competition. Period of time? As soon as possible. This time pressure often leads to intensive training stimuli being set too frequently, i.e. at short intervals. However, «more is more» does not lead to success when it comes to the goal of a sustainable increase in performance. On the contrary: in the worst case, overtraining can lead to a drop in performance.
Just as our brains can burn out if we are constantly overworked, we also overstrain our muscles with non-stop training. Training breaks, on the other hand, must not be too long, otherwise the increase in performance that has been achieved will recede. So what is the «right» amount of training?
Even if the genetic predisposition is different for each of us and we all react differently (quickly) to stimuli, the following rules help in principle to achieve sustainable training success:
- Regular training: Already 1-3x training / week helps to make progress
- Increase training stimuli: If our body is challenged, it adapts to the load and thus becomes stronger, faster, more agile. In order to avoid getting used to it, the body has to be “stimulated” again and again:
- increase weight over the duration of the workout,
- increase the «time under tension», i.e. the duration of the load on the muscles
- Increase the pace during endurance training to get faster, or e.g. B. Build in short sprint intervals to boost explosive power
- No sensory overload: You have to leave your comfort zone during training, as this is the only way the body is challenged. However, too strong stimuli damage the stressed system – injuries can occur. Therefore: train moderately!
- Take breaks: Stress and recovery form a unit. Only after recovery does the trainee get better:
- After exertion, there is a temporary decrease in athletic performance (fatigue).
- During the training break (recovery phase) the organism regenerates.
- The starting level is reached again after the break. If an ideal regeneration could take place and the training is continued at the right time interval, there is an improvement in the training level.
- Supercompensation: If the training stimulus was above the threshold during training, so-called supercompensation occurs in the further course of the training break, an increase in performance above the initial level.
- Keep at it: If there is no further training load after a certain period of time, i.e. if the training break is too long, there is a gradual return to the starting level.
Activities for regeneration
Our body, which regenerates during training breaks and increases its performance, behaves in a similar way to our brain, which converts or discards what we have experienced into memories during our night’s sleep. As a rule, a 24-48 hour break from training is recommended. However, this depends on the intensity of the sporting activity and the individual fitness level. In any case, it is helpful to initiate the regeneration phase after the workout with a «cool-down»: easy stretching, rolling out on a foam roller, or a light cardio cool-down, for example on the stepper.
Many people also find going to the wellness area particularly beneficial: Whether it’s a sauna, steam bath or whirlpool – the warmth helps the muscles to relax and balances body and mind. In the classic sauna tour, the change between warm and cold also strengthens the immune system, and the circulation in the Kneipp pool is stimulated.
No time for breaks
Allowing time for regeneration is very important to give the body a chance to recover. If you still don’t want to do without exercise and sport during the regeneration phase, you can tackle a sports unit that uses other muscle groups that were not used during the last workout. For example, there’s nothing wrong with doing a few strength exercises for your arms before a cardio session or a yoga session the day after an intensive HIIT workout.
Avoiding stress in general is important for optimal regeneration. Since we tend to be under great professional and private stress these days, we also have to reduce the mental stress factor in order to allow the body to regenerate optimally. Because stress has a negative effect on the hormone balance with regard to regeneration. This can lead to fatigue and, in the worst case, to injuries. A «stressed» body also makes little or no progress in training.
My tip: «Arriving» is absolutely the most important thing when it comes to reducing stress. For me, getting there includes an extensive warm-up. I mobilize my joints or do activation exercises for the stabilizing muscle groups. After that I’m focused and can fully concentrate on the workout. After training, I enjoy a cool down. For me, this means once a week going through the sauna in the fitness park’s wellness area. Occasionally I also treat myself to a soothing massage, which promotes blood circulation and thus also contributes to better muscle regeneration. In the regeneration phase after my gym workouts, I like to integrate a yoga session into my everyday life to keep moving. If my muscles need longer to recover optimally after an intensive workout, it is an alternative to insert a meditation session. This is how I feel my body and find my center again.
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Name: Désirée Känzig
Profession Assistent Manager & Teamleader Fitnesspark Allmend
Motto: «Do something today that you can be proud of tomorrow.»
movemi AG is the largest fitness provider in Switzerland. The company, based in Zurich Oerlikon, has been combining the ACTIV FITNESS and fitness park brands under one roof since 2022. More than 4,300 employees work in a total of 132 facilities throughout Switzerland and represent the densest network of studios in Switzerland. Around 200,000 members currently train in the two formats, 365 days a year.