Take a Break: Resting During Your Workout

One of my favorite super heroes is The Flash. If you think about it, The Flash is unstoppable. How can you defeat someone you can't catch? Aside from his super human power that allows him to run at over 2,000,000 mph and his super human endurance that allows him/her to run forever, he has one super human ability that is often overlooked. The dude NEVER gets tired!

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Okay maybe I am exaggerating a bit. If flash doesn't consume more than 10,000 calories per day he begins to fatigue according to the comics (yes, I nerd hard), but that being said the amount of work the flash does compared to the amount of rest he takes is quite impressive. I guess that's what makes him super. Also, just as a side note: that does not mean that just because you run a lot you can afford to eat 10,000 calories... Anyways, where am I going with this? 

YOU!

You, unfortunately, are not The Flash. You are still super with your running around the kids all day, working full time, making dinner, running errands, and doing household chores... but super speed speed and stamina did not make it onto the list of your super abilities. That is why I can not stress enough the importance of taking rests during your workout. Especially as we move into our 30's and 40's, rest becomes more and more important.

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You may be feeling extra Flashy, but taking rests during your workouts, and between sets, is actually very important. Going non stop is great for improving your endurance, but when you want to improve your strength and power (the kind of improvements that make you look sexy) taking rests between sets is crucial. Why?... I thought you'd never ask.

There is this little thing called INTENSITY. In order to actually get stronger and more powerful you must work at a high enough intensity for your type 2 (the ones that make you look sexy) muscles to adapt. In order to consistently reach that level of intensity, you must rest thereby allowing your muscles to recover. Think of it like this...

Let's say you can deadlift the following...

300lb for 1 rep

200lb for 10 reps

100lb for 20 reps

You can deadlift 300lb, but only one time. This is the maximum INTENSITY you are capable of for this lift. For you it is presently, physically impossible to lift 300lb more than one time in a row. This means you NEED TO REST! If you rest, you give your muscles time to recover and you can lift 300lb again and again until you've had your fill of barbell for the day. What you CAN NOT do, is lift that 300lb back to back without injuring your back. Why? Because your muscles have not adapted to the point where they are able to do that, therefore they get fatigued after one repetition and are no longer operating at a high enough INTENSITY for those type 2 muscles to adapt.

Another way of putting it is like this... If you can make it through your ENTIRE workout without stopping once, you are not working at a high enough intensity to improve your strength and power. In a sense you are not getting the most out of your workout. What this boils down to is you need to make sure you are actively PUSHING YOURSELF during your workouts to a point of temporary severe discomfort, or TSD. <--- just made that up by the way :) Meaning, you need to push yourself to a point where you HAVE to take a break because your body isn't capable of operating at that level of intensity for much longer.

 See what happens when you lift 300lb 2 times before you're ready...

See what happens when you lift 300lb 2 times before you're ready...

All this being said, there is a time and a place for endurance training, and it can be extremely beneficial for a lot of people who aren't interested in getting strong, getting powerful, or looking good naked. It also isn't necessary to take a 3 minute rest every 5 minutes during your workout. The key takeaway here is that, if you never feel the need to rest during your workout, you are missing out on a lot of the strength and power benefits that come along with exercising. So take it from Barry Allen (the best flash there ever was duh...) next time you are wondering whether or not to take a rest break between sets...

Ellicott City