Stop, Look and Listen – Your Body’s Green Cross Code!

by Marianne  - June 14, 2011

STOP what you are doing, LOOK at your performance and LISTEN to what your body is telling you!

Today I came home from work with the full intent of training and pumping out the “SPARTAN 300” rematch that Adam challenged me to.  After a few minutes practicing my Kettlebell Snatches, I caved in to the urge to rest instead.

There are many times I hear a voice that says “I can’t be bothered” or “you can make up for it tomorrow”, and I am sure I am not alone in this.  So, how do you know when to listen to that voice or when to ignore it?

Firstly you need to STOP and let that other voice (guilt) be silenced.

Next, LOOK at your schedule (both training and life). Look at the training you have done over the last week, two weeks or month and look for progress or plateau.

Then, LISTEN to your inner common sense and consider if you need to push harder, change the tempo, add variety or just plain SLOW DOWN!

The bottom line is, that for most of us, a few days or even a week off training can do wonders. Not just for gaining energy and a little reprieve from training but, also for motivation, reflection and even some new inspiration or new goals.

If all you ever do is train, then think about the benefits of rest and recovery. The “I need to slow down” voice should not be ignored.

Recovery lets the body to replenish energy stores and repair damaged tissues. Training causes changes in the body such as muscle tissue breakdown and the depletion of energy stores (muscle glycogen) as well as fluid loss. Your progress happens DURING rest!

Recovery time allows these stores to be replenished and tissue repair to occur. Without sufficient time to repair, the body will continue to breakdown from intensive exercise. Symptoms of over-training often occur from a lack of recovery time. Signs of over-training include a feeling of general malaise, staleness, depression, decreased sports performance and increased risk of injury, among others.

An interesting article/podcast by Brad Pilon on his “Inflammation Theory” highlights some interesting considerations when it comes to fat loss and muscle gain.  This video presentation is well worth a look. Especially in relation to how lack of recovery could actually hinder your efforts to progress.

When you hit a plateau in either your strength gains, fat loss or motivation, also consider how much stress you are placing on yourself to reach your goals and, your time frame.  Are your expectations of how long your goal should take realistic?

Having the awareness to stop, the objectiveness to look and the ability to listen will take you one huge step closer to achieving your goals and performing better for Life!

(Sounds like a battery advert LOL)

Just some food for thought 😀 I look forward to reading your thoughts and experiences on the topic of overtraining, recovery and overcoming plateaus.




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    1. Thanks for this Lori, just what I needed to read 😀 I posted this to Facebook too to share with everyone.

      Be proud to be imperfect and learn to laugh at ones self 😛

  1. I love all the pictures of the cats chillin/resting. They know how to rest that’s for sure. In my situation I’ve been battling patellar tendonitis due to heavier lifting as well as some wrist pain from overhead squats and snatch. I’m determined to take a break for the summer months from any heavier lifting and focus on body weight movements and skill work in the olympic lifts. It’s been about a month now and I can already feel a difference. Fighting the urge to go harder/lift heavier is tough. Deciphering what inner voice to listen to is the challenge. Thanks for sharing. I’ll give the video on inflammation a look.

    1. Good for you Mark. What I found was after doing heavy DL and squats in the gym last year, I tapered it all down and just did kettlebells for about 4 months. Then , I went back to the lifting and was able to do so much better and at the same weights, but with better form! 🙂 It will do you no harm to focus on other things for a while – wish you all the best 🙂

  2. Hi Marianne,

    This is a really interesting post and one I can totally relate to. Overtraining is a trap I’m constantly aware of and one I sometimes fall into.
    I think that to be able to reach your fitness goals you do have to have that little voice in your head that urges you to push out those last few reps or step up the weight. The trouble is, I find it hard to switch off that voice when I’m thinking of taking a rest day because I’m tired and achy. Instead of thinking I need this time to recover, I do sometimes start berating myself for being lazy or not trying hard enough. To be honest, my little voice can be a massive cow :). Still, I do know that overtraining is bad news and that if I want to make progress, avoid injury and illness, I need to slow down. That’s why (mostly) I tell that little voice to shove it.:)

    1. I agree Emma, that voice can be a pest and needs to be told where to go sometimes. It can be a blessing though when you are wanting to put everthing into a workout.

      Glad I am not the only one who struggles with “push forward verses pull back” of training.

  3. I love this statement “Having the awareness to stop, the objectiveness to look and the ability to listen will take you one huge step closer to achieving your goals and performing better for Life!” Your article is so true, I often struggle giving myself an off day. I always think I can push myself just a little bit further and sometimes I don’t sit back and think that part of my training needs to have rest days incorporated in as well. Thanks for bringing this topic up!

  4. Very good article Marianne.

    I find it is important to give yourself a break once in a while; it helps to refresh your mind and body.
    It is just not that easy to do 🙂

    It took me some time to understand and accept that if I want to achieve my goals, I should also rest, not only train.
    I still struggle with guilt feelings when sometimes I need to skip a workout or move it to another day after a long day at work. I actually use similar exercise to overcome these feelings of guilt – I pause for a moment, check the overall view (or ratio) of my work/life/training and rearrange it a bit if necessary. And it helps. It helps to gain more energy, motivation and what’s more important for me – it keeps me relax and I am not stressing about food (so no more food obsession 🙂 ) and training (and no overtraining to compensate the food intake).

    Thanks for bringing this up.


  5. I should have read this before going to the gym this morning. I was tired from yesterday’s KB leg work-out and forgot to stretch after (DOH), so I was tight in the hamstrings and glutes. Instead I toyed around with the TRX and managed some cable rows, but it was all a little half hearted and unnecessary. Welcome to NOT WORKING OUT as the path to equanimity.

  6. I’m sorry to hear that. When you are ok you can try this and give me your opinion about this routine:

    One arm Clean+squat+press left

    One arm Clean+squat+press right

    Two hands swing

    Push up on kb

    Renegade row


    One arm snatch left

    One arm snatch right

    Kettlebells 16 kg, 45″:15″, repeat 3 times.

    Keeep’n touch. Cheers:)

  7. Actually Marianne, on another note, I was wondering is it possible to hit a plateau doing HIIT style training, where you are constantly varying the exercises, sets, reps as in steady state cardio? Is it okay to be performing such intense style training like the kettlebell workouts on your site say 4-5 days a week? Just curious what your thoughts are on this.


    1. Sorry about this question AGAIN. he he. I realized you already answered this for me in another post! oops my bad!

  8. Thank you so much for sharing this article! Just yesterday I said to myself I am going to work out today, even though my body and my heart just wasn’t into it. I went into my garage did my warm up and started a workout but had to stop. I just wasn’t feeling it yesterday. I think I definitely need to listen to my body more often and not worry so much if I miss a day here or there and not beat myself up over it. Great advice and a great article!


  9. Hey Marianne!
    I have written to you re my knees and you’ve even had your friend respond to some of my questions – I have been strengthening them, but continue, when doing front load squats, to have that pain. It doesn’t last as long, but it is still there. I want to really tone my quads, but have to choose to do other things, less reps, and BE PATIENT – I may never be able to do them painfree. Possibly I have some inherent weakness in that area of my body, and I am learning as I age to listen to my body!!!! I appreciate you encouraging us to not push sooo hard that we hurt ourselves. I used to do the inteval training on another site, and try to push myself on later occasions to “beat my scores” which, can be good, but I was finding I was losing my form and possibly risking injury just to beat my reps. Now, I just do my very best, challenge myself at times to complete more reps, but focus most on maintaining good form and muscle control, to get the most out of my exercise and training! THanks for all your positive encouragement, not just for us to get stronger and more firm, but to be healthy, safe, and wise!!!
    Have a lovely day! Michele <

    1. Thank you for you kind comment Michele. I’m sorry that your knee is still playing up, but at least it seems to be improving a little. It’s funny you should say about “beating our times”. I got thinking today, when I considered re-doing Spartan 300, that my form was a lot worse back then, so my new attempt should not be focused on beating my time, but beating my form! I know I can rock the form much better, even if I regress the weight – I want to try my best to be consistent with technique. You have the right attitude!


  10. Thank you for this and Brad Pilon’s link. Great food for thought.
    I am actually on the opposite side of the spectrum. Need to focus more on my strength workouts.

    What are you drugging those kitties with? 🙂

    1. LOL, they are super adorable! They are just dosed with love 🙂

      When we stop and assess what we need to do, at least we have the chance and time to plan for our new goals.

  11. Great article Marianne. I can tell you taking a day of rest or two or even a recovery week like once a month (haven’t followed that model in a while) has never hurt me , but the tendency to want to over train or constantly push has in the past left me with a crash and burn effect. I was on antibiotics for 50 days this past winter due to mycoplasma pneumonia that followed with 3 sinus infections and I really did not take appropriate rest during that period which I am sure contributed to the extent of time it took me to kick being so sick. My tendency to want to train all day truly does come from a love of it but also I just feel like a caged animal in my body if I don’t, lol. I have scaled back quite a bit over the years , because when my three children have grown I want to remember the fun I had with them more than the fun I had alone in my garage. Same goes for time with my Husband. So I train while they sleep or at school, work ,I keep it brief but intense.My workouts usually run between 40-90min depending on what I am doing , sometimes shorter but I don’t really let myself go longer than the 90min mark. It is amazing what rest can do for you. Now you have me thinking of adding an extra rest day this week 😉

    1. Thanks Cynthia. If I am honest, 90 mins is a very long time to train – I don’t know how you do it! An hour kills me :/ Mine last at the most 40 minutes about 3 – 4 times a week. There was a time i trained every day in the gym for 90 odd mins and it really only kept my guilt at bay. I never saw any real progress. I am not saying the same is true for you 🙂

      Rest has done wonders for me. I have more rest these days and I look, feel better than ever and I can do so much more.

      Hope you will add another recovery day – you deserve it 😀

      1. Thanks Marianne , I will add another recovery day-sounds good to me! You are right that 90minutes is more for my mental need than benefit of training .I don’t train 90minutes everyday these days either, maybe 1-2xs per week ,sometimes more. I try to keep it under an hour ,because really I train hard and get a lot done in much shorter time. I am on a new mission to reincorporate yoga and stretching into my training days as a follow up to my workouts. I am 39 and know that if I don’t put some focus into this area , I am bound to regret it sooner than later.

  12. I’ve just flared up an old knee injury (playing ultimate frisbee!) and I’ve had to take a break from training. It hasn’t even been a week and I feel like I’m falling behind…but reflection is great! I think I wasn’t focusing on strengthening my knee as much as I should, and I didn’t have any clear goals to begin with. It may take another week of doing nothing (unfortunately even exercises in a plank position still hurt the knee) to rest and recover, but it will be worth it.

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