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Go Figure

Leg-Lift-on-BOSU-BallIt’s been a couple of months since I have truly had a good workout post my knee debacle. My biggest concern was what would happen to all that hard work and results I had achieved with my hard core fitness routine?

My schedule went from 5-6 days/week of working out to 2-3 days of PT only. Although both intense, not the same.

I have, once again, become my own science experiment.

So what changed? I slowed down and focused on my form and strengthening specific muscles through contraction and concentrated movements. And my body is just as strong, if not stronger, than pre-surgery.  I actually believe my physique has improved. I’m not saying my cardio has not completed suffered – that is one area I will need to rebuild and is a priority for me going forward; but, I didn’t gain weight, I didn’t lose muscle tone and I didn’t stop eating.

This only confirms what I have learned:

Form Is Everything.
In PT, most of your efforts are based on slow, methodical movements – contracting and building muscle, strengthening and focus. Something I was never a big fan of…moving slow.

Evidence continues to support that form is the utmost important. Without proper form, you will overcompensate with the wrong muscles and support systems. I knew this already – as I am sure most of you have experienced first-hand – without proper form, you are not getting the maximum benefit of the movement (not seeing results) and you are more prone to injury.

One of my major pet peeves throughout the years attending fitness classes was watching most of the class trying so hard to keep up and complete the routine by sacrificing form. Without proper form and movement (“just getting through it”) they were only getting a fraction of the benefit of the workout. Proper form is always more important than speed and is the key to training successfully. Maximum muscle contraction is critical in seeing effects.

I even find myself on the days I don’t have PT, standing a little taller, contracting my body a little tighter and overall, being aware of my movement.

We have written previous posts about the importance of resting your body: (http://heelstolaces.com/give-rest/).

The body needs time to repair and strengthen. Continuous training can actually weaken the strongest athlete. During recovery, the body adapts to the stress of exercise and the real training effect takes place – meaning, this is where you build muscle. In addition, rest helps maintain a better balance between home, work & fitness goals (and healing ACL’s ;-).

Changin’ It Up
Your body can very easily get used to the same routine every week and become very efficient. This adaptation (we’ve used this term in previous blogs!) causes you to burn fewer calories, even when you’re doing the same amount of exercise. The solution is to challenge your body in new ways. Your body will have to work harder as it adjusts to the new activity, which means that you’ll burn more calories when you work out.

So, there you have it. The combination of focused form, rest and change in my workout has truly had a beneficial effect on my body. And surprisingly, had the reverse reaction than what I expected.


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Back To Basics

Back To The Basics

In my role as a fitness instructor/trainer, one of the first questions I am asked is “How do I get fitter? My body is not changing and I work out all the time.”

There are several things that lead to optimal training: how many times you exercise per week, how intense you exercise and what types of exercise you perform (and of course, your diet – but we’ll cover that in another blog entry).

The Principle of Overload says that to reach a desired training improvement, you have to perform at a level higher than what you are currently doing.  Often, we get so comfortable in our fitness routine, we are no longer challenging ourselves or getting out of our comfort zone (note our recent blog entry: Mind Over Matter).

By performing at a higher level (ie. heavier weights, different type of workout, anaerobic workout), your body responds to this new stress by adapting to the increase in capacity. Fitness programs that lack overload or variation will help you maintain your current level, but not improve it.

The Principle of Progression states that for continued improvement in your fitness level, you have to continually challenge yourself over time. This means gradual increases in the frequency, intensity and type of exercise you perform without increasing your risk of injury. The length of improvement will vary depending on age, current fitness level and physical limitations.

Principle of Specificity is the key to progression! It says that your body will adapt to the demands put on it. For example, you want to run your first marathon, but you’ve never run more than 3 miles. The more you train – the longer you can run, the more miles you cover, the more your body adapts to what you are asking of it (over a gradual period of time). The changes you are making are specific to that activity. So, focus on one new activity at a time to maximize your results.

So let’s recap. To see different results, you have to challenge yourself. Pick a new workout routine…or try a different fitness program. Stay consistent in your gradual increases and push yourself. Don’t just go through the movements – get out of your comfort zone. You will start to see results.

Should You Rest?
Short answer – YES! Your body needs time to recover and your musculoskeletal system needs to rebuild from vigorous exercise (note our blog entry “Give It A Rest“). You can cause more damage than good if you do not let your body rest. Overtraining can also occur when you try to increase your intensity too quickly. In both scenarios, you are more prone to injury and will not optimize the increase in your fitness level.

I always try to incorporate at least 2 days of rest into my week (no high-intensity workouts – more leisure activities).

What If I Stop Exercising?
So, now that you know how to progress your fitness level, on the other end of the spectrum, what happens if you stop for a designated length of time?  If your training is discontinued or decreased, de-training occurs. Cardio-respiratory fitness levels decrease after only 2-3 weeks without training. Muscular fitness (strength/endurance) will decrease in 2-3 months without training. Note to self: don’t stop by choice. Objects in rest tend to stay in rest. Objects in motion, stay in motion.

Have specific questions for your fitness training? Email us. We are here to help: info@heelstolaces.com

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Give It A Rest

Cardinal rule of exercise – you have to allow your body to rest and repair. Although this is widely known, I often talk to people who never rest and exercise 7 days a week.

Why Rest Is Important:

  • The body repairs and strengthens itself in-between workouts. Continuous training can actually weaken the strongest athlete.stock-footage-woman-drinks-coffee
  • During recovery, the body adapts to the stress of exercise and the real training effect takes place – meaning, this is where you build muscle.
    • Conditioning requires a balance between overload (pushing the muscles) and recovery. Too much overload or too little recovery result in both physical and psychological symptoms.
  • Rest helps maintain a better balance between home, work &  fitness goals.
  • Sleep is key to keeping hormone levels steady which aid in stress and muscle recovery, as well as a stable mood.  Sleep deprivation can also affect aerobic endurance.
  • Too  few rest and recovery days can lead to overtraining syndrome : when you train beyond the body’s ability to recover.

Common Warning Signs and Symptoms of Overtraining Syndrome 

  • Washed-out feeling, tired, drained, lack of energy
  • Mild leg soreness, general aches and pains
  • Pain in muscles and joints
  • Sudden drop in performance
  • Insomnia
  • Headaches
  • Decreased immunity (increased number of colds, and sore throats)
  • Decrease in training capacity / intensity
  • Moodiness, irritability or depression
  • Loss of enthusiasm for working out
  • Decreased appetite
  • Increased incidence of injuries
  • A compulsive need to exercise 

Principal of Adaptation & How It Applies To Recovery

When we undergo the stress of physical exercise, our body adapts and becomes more efficient – Principal of Adaptation (also discussed in our “The Power of Your Heart” blog entry). When you do not properly rest from the stress of physical exercise, your body cannot adapt as easily to the changes.

The body can only tolerate so much stress before it breaks down and risks injury. Doing too much, too quickly will result in muscle damage and have adverse effects (too many days of exercise). Likewise, doing too little, too slowly will not result in improvement (going through the motions).

The other key component of building your fitness level is to vary your workouts between cardio and strength conditioning. All too often, people will focus on one or the other and constantly work the same muscles without rest. Ever try a new class and couldn’t move the next morning? Excellent example of muscles you are not training in your normal workout. Varying your workouts allows the muscles you typically use to rest and helps your body adapt to change (improve your fitness level).

My Take

People always ask me what I do for my workouts. I am a pretty scheduled kinda girl who likes to plan my week. I work out 5 days/wk with 2 days rest.

3 days I vary my workout with high intensity interval and strength training at K2 fitness. In between those days, I do 2 days/wk of interval sprints for 30 minutes on my treadmill (5 min running/2 min sprint circuits).

I believe in those 2 days of rest (as hard as it is sometimes to mentally convince myself to not workout). I feel so refreshed when I  go back to my workouts.

When I workout, I workout hard and make every minute count. It’s better to maximize your time at the gym and work hard the days you go then going through the motions every day and not improving your fitness level. Workout, repair and workout again.

And think of all the time you will save with less days at the gym.

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