The first step in reaching your fitness goals is deciding that you are going to work hard. It doesn’t have to be a soul-crushing, grind-it-out experience to get into great shape, but chances are you will have to push a little harder than you currently push. As important as it’s going to be to push yourself, it’s also going to be just as important to know your limits.
Everyone has limits. Whether you are just starting out and struggling to stick to a workout plan, or are someone with experience and in great shape, you have limits. Sometimes the ego steps in and tries to talk you out of listening to these limits. In a fitness industry that is big on ‘pushing through it’ and ‘no pain, no gain’, it can become difficult to truly know your boundaries.
Sometimes as you work hard towards your fitness goals, tunnel vision can set in and you just have your eye on the prize and nothing is going to get in your way! However, without self-awareness of your limits you might ignore what your body is telling you and set yourself up for injury and burnout. Figuring out when to push and when to pull back isn’t an exact science. But it’s something to learn so you can continue long term with a fitness lifestyle.
During your workout, be aware of lightheadedness or dizziness, rapid elevated heart rate that doesn’t come down, and pain (not the discomfort of burning muscles or hard work). These are all signs that you may need to stop or pull back the reins.
Outside of your workouts you should also look out for decreased performance, endurance, and motor skills, as well as lethargy and lack of motivation to exercise. These are signs that you’re pushing yourself too hard and need more time to recover adequately.
If today is a scheduled intense heavy lifting day but your body tells you, “I am too run down” …you listen! Use this as a yoga or light jogging day. Do the heavy lifts tomorrow. Your body is telling you this for a reason. Knowing when you should take time off from the gym or scale down the workout intensity is not weak, it’s smart. It’s knowing your limits.
Lastly, recovery time is important. You need to give your body time to recuperate from your active lifestyle by taking a couple of days off each week for resting and rebuilding. You don’t have to be a slug on those days, just do something gentle and restorative such as yoga or walking. Rest properly so you can train to your full potential.
By Shara Vigeant, BA, NSCA-CPT*D, CFSC