When you push yourself through a high-intensity workout (cardio or strength training), tiny tears develop in your muscle fibers. Allowing your body to rest and recover for a day (or two) gives your hard working muscles time to repair those tears, and a wonderful thing happens—your muscles become stronger! Without ample recovery time, you continue breaking down the muscle fibers, and that’s when fatigue and injury can occur.
Incorporate a variety of activities into your exercise program. Or, if there is one thing you really enjoy, mix up your routine. Add speed or distance, increase the incline, or change your route—all of these variations can improve fitness, prevent injury, and keep your motivation high. Try different kinds of workouts within each week. For example, try an interval walking workout, a long distance walk, and a few “regular” walks at an easier speed and distance.
Don’t do too much, too soon. Some women take the “all-or-none” approach, going from a sedentary lifestyle to exercising for 45 minutes or more, 5-6 days per week. At this rate, exercise doesn’t make you feel good like everyone says it will. You’re tired, your knees hurt, and your muscles are sore. After a week or two, it’s easy to get frustrated and want to give up. Instead, increase your workouts gradually and allow adequate recovery time to reduce these symptoms.
Take care of yourself. Make sure you are eating a well-balanced diet, and getting adequate sleep. Allow for flexibility in your program: if you’re planning to walk and its 110 degrees outside, think about exercising in water, or at least avoid the heat of the day. If you’re not feeling well, give yourself a break—no guilt allowed. You may end up doing more harm than good by pushing yourself to exercise if you’re getting sick.
Exercise should make you feel refreshed and energized—not exhausted. If it’s causing fatigue, soreness, or a feeling of utter dread, listen to your body! It may be time to make a change.