Paddle Healthy: When Not To Workout
Here at SUPtheMag.com, we’re usually trying to help you find time to workout and advising you on how to get more from your exercise routine. But, there are times when your body would be better off taking it easy or taking a complete break. And, while the culture of extreme exercise is increasingly urging us to plow forward through pain, sickness and discomfort, we’re here to tell you to disregard this outdated and often dangerous “no pain, no gain” philosophy, which can lead to injury, illness, and compromised performance. Now let’s jump into the scenarios in which you should limit or stop activity.
1. You’re In Pain
Whether you’re paddling, working out in the gym, running, or whatever, your workout should be difficult enough to challenge you. But, fighting through fatigue, lactic acid accumulation and soreness is one thing. Pushing through pain is another. If you get a burning pain, a sudden muscle twinge or experience the surge of a sudden nerve-based lighting bolt, you have to stop. Your body has a set of highly evolved sensors and when your feedback mechanisms tell you there’s something wrong then you need to listen. If your pain receptors are overloaded, it’s because you’ve sustained an injury or are about to, or have compromised your nervous system. Don’t feel like a wimp by stopping—you could potentially do lasting damage.
2. You Don’t Have Time to Warmup/Cooldown
When Usain Bolt runs 100 meters it takes him less than 10 seconds and if he’s racing over 200 meters, he’s done within 20. But, long before he and his fellow sprinters get to the track, they go through a series of dynamic exercises, low intensity aerobic activities and mobility drills to prepare their bodies for the rigors of intense exercise. Then, they do skill work, practice starts and plyometrics to move their musculoskeletal and nervous systems into high gear before the start gun fires. “But I’m not Usain Bolt!” we hear you say. True, but the same rules apply to weekend warriors as to the pros. There’s a universal rule you should follow: if you don’t have time to warm up and cool down, you don’t have time to workout.
Only have 30 minutes for exercise on your lunch break? Don’t go from zero to 60 with no preparation! Instead, jump rope or do five to 10 minutes of low intensity cardio, followed by these paddling prep exercises from SUPthemag’s Brody Welte or a series of bodyweight exercises (air squats, lunges, pushups, mountain climbers, etc) that force oxygenated blood to your muscles. Then, do an intense 10- to 15-minute circuit or interval circuit, followed by at least five minutes of cooling down and mobility exercises (more is preferable) to flush waste by-products and free tightened soft tissues of restrictions. If you have even less time for activity, consider just taking a walk. The risk of injury is just too high if you can’t commit to at least minimal warm up and cool down before intense exercise.
3. You’re Sleep Deprived
It’s no surprise that many of us don’t get enough sleep. While hitting the hay for less than seven hours each night can inhibit exercise recovery, increase the risk of contracting a cold and compromise performance, getting no sleep or just a couple of hours is far more serious. Researchers have shown that very low intensity activity—like a low stroke rate paddle, recovery row or walk—can reduce the feeling of sleepiness and better prepare the body for restful sleep. But, trying to exercise with anything above minimal intensity when you’re seriously sleep-compromised is a bad idea.
Even if you’ve eaten well and consumed plenty of fluids, your body won’t be able to process this fuel properly to power you through a race or hard workout. In addition, your muscles and other soft tissues will be seriously underprepared for a full-on session, even if you follow our warm up and cool down rules. Your body is already working hard just to stay awake. You wouldn’t drive a car if you feared falling asleep at the wheel, would you? Nor should you expect your body to handle the stress of all-out physical exertion. Instead, get some rest and vow to push it hard tomorrow.
4. You’re Tempted to Skip Rest Day
Pro athletes sometimes seem to wear their extreme workout schedules like badges of courage. You do three hours a day five days a week? Well, I do five hours a day, six days a week! But, just like boasting about working long hours and/or getting little sleep is foolish, overtraining or racing too much is a terrible idea, whether you’re a pro or an amateur. It can lead to niggling or severe injuries, sickness and burnout—just ask Connor Baxter. And remember that your favorite athletes have lots of time to recover, access to professional dietitians, masseurs and more, and can often get far more sleep than most of us—everyone from LeBron James, to Roger Federer to Laird Hamilton claims to get 10 hours or more shuteye a night.
For those of us who don’t have Olympic ambitions, we’re better off reducing our work rate to include just four to five days a week. That’s the only way that we can get adequate recovery to meet our fitness goals, whether that’s winning an SUP race, hitting a new PR in the weight room or smoking that local 5K run. Remember that muscles don’t adapt under load. Sure, we need the stimulus of exercise, but it’s the time that we spend NOT working out that determines how our bodies respond to this stimulus. That’s why it’s usually not wise to “push through” for seven days straight even if we feel okay. Doing some active recovery (think the pace of your usual warm up or cool down) or mobility work is okay, but do your body a favor and take at least one day of rest per week.
5. You’re Sick (and we’re not talking a sniffle)
We all know those smug people who claim, “I never get sick.” Well, maybe there are a few who can go a few years without illness, but most of us get at least one knock-you-down bout each year. Now, if you have a little congestion or are generally under the weather, go ahead and workout, even if you have to dial back the intensity. But if it’s anything below the neck, you have a fever, and/or it’s something that’s serious enough to make you consider calling into work sick, then stay off your board and out of the gym.
Just like if you get less or minimal sleep, when you’re sick your system is working double time to keep you functioning. The human body isn’t designed to shuttle antibodies and all its other illness-fighting properties to take on infection while also fueling optimal physical output. At best, you’ll have a crappy workout, and at worst, you can exaggerate your systems and get really sick. So, fight that temptation to push through and that fear that you’ll be losing ground, and instead spend your time guzzling green tea with honey, extra fruit and veggies and zinc-rich foods that can get you back to normal quickly.