noun: 1. the fear of missing out on strength, endurance, aesthetics, aka GAINZ due to time away from the gym.
Too often than I would like to admit, I get into a habit of thinking that more is better: more reps, more workouts, more days at the gym. In the “one more rep” CrossFit culture, it can be easy to fall victim to a mentality that equates rest and recovery to weakness, laziness, or loss of gains. Not to mention, if you’re like me, the gym has become your stress relief, social circle, and post-work happy hour all rolled into one and skipping a day gives you serious fitness FOMO. Very quickly though, that FOMO can turn into working out every day of the week or doing multiple workouts a day (or supplementing before or after). And after a while, I feel like I’ve been hit by a truck, both physically and mentally – burnt out, struggling, and confused.
Why does it seem the more time I spend in the gym, the worse I feel?
The answer is a condition called “overreaching,” or at its extreme, overtraining syndrome. According to the American College of Sports Medicine (2015) and the European College of Sports Science (2006), some of the most common symptoms of overreaching and/or overtraining include:
Persistent heavy, stiff, and sore muscles
Persistent fatigue, washed-out feeling
Decreased performance and ability to maintain the training regimen
Increased susceptibility to infections, colds, headaches
Nagging and somewhat chronic injuries
Decreased mental concentration and restlessness
Loss of motivation
Changes in weight and/or appetite
I’m sure some of you are thinking, there’s zero chance I am suffering from overtraining based on a one-hour class a day. Yet, the high-intensity aspect of CrossFit that we love is also what makes it more taxing than your traditional approach to fitness. Combine that with the daily stressors of work, school, home, and family lives and it’s easy to burn ourselves out.
What happens during rest and recovery?
Rest days don’t necessarily mean relax (although it can and should!). Rest days are designed to give your body time to recover so you can perform better and more safely during your next work out. When we work out, our bodies experience hormonal changes, joint and skeletal stress, muscle tissue breakdown, and neuromuscular fatigue (decrease in muscular performance to maintain or develop force or power). The only way for our bodies to restore and rebuild is to rest. Without a period of repair, our bodies can actually weaken, resulting in decreased performance and increased risk of injury.
Here are some quick self-reflection questions to gauge your rest and recovery:
Sleep: Are you getting 7-10 hours of sleep at night?
Nutrition and Hydration: Are you getting adequate calories for your training load? Are you fueling your workouts with quality foods (not food products) and appropriate amounts of carbs, proteins, and fats? Are you consuming 8+ glasses of water a day?
Training timing: Have you taken a rest day this week? Have you had 6+ hours between workouts? If you’re competing, have you tapered your training accordingly?
Scaling: Are you adjusting your training volume and intensity based on your performance, mood, injuries, and other influencing physical and psychological factors (jet lag, illness, overwork, hormones)?
Motivation: Am I having fun? Do I look forward to working out?
Is it wrong to push yourself, see what you’re capable of, or love your gym? Absolutely not! That’s what CrossFit is all about. But if you find yourself answering “yes” to a lot of symptoms, and “no” to a lot of the questions above, consider prioritizing scheduled rest days in your training. Scaling, or taking one or two (gasp!) rest days will not result in decreased performance or weight gain – in fact, you may even come back more refreshed, more motivated, and performing better than you were before. Every person is different - your fitness regimen is only as good as it is effective, and training is only effective with appropriate rest. Put an end to your Fitness FOMO and listen to your body. Train smarter not harder, and trust the process!