Knowing When to Slow Down

I love the gym. I’d lift weights daily if I thought that would be the best approach, but you can only push your body to the limits for so long before your CNS gets driven into the ground. Hormonal output suffers, chronic fatigue sets in, and illness (cough or blowing your nose constantly) are all tell-tale signs of an overtrained athlete.

It’s a balancing act, and one that takes time to master. Only you know your own body and how it’s feeling. Unfortunately, one blanket approach is not going to work for everyone. We all have varying degrees of recovery based on genetics and lifestyle factors. Two steps forward and one step back is part of the game, so don’t think a week off here or there is going to sabotage your progress.

Listen to the warning signs!

How do I know when it’s time to slow it down?

  1. Bags under the eyes. This is always a sign for me. I get dark circles under my eyes, regardless of how much sleep I’m getting.
  2. Chronic joint pain. Knees and wrists cracking like those of an 80-year-old man’s? Not good.
  3. Can never get enough sleep. Normally 7 hours and I’m leaping out of bed in the AM, but when my CNS is in the dumps, 9 hours feels like a cat nap. 
  4. Lack of motivation. My usual drive for life and the gym just isn’t what it usually is.
  5. Strength is poor. When the weights start feeling heavier than normal, it may be a sign your body is telling you to scale it back.

If you have any or all of those signs, take note! A week completely out of the gym is usually my approach (with a little cardio mixed in for kicks). I can’t go in just for a pump and mess around, it always leads to more, so I just stay away. The week after when I get back into it, the volume of work is lower and I slowly ramp it up week after week as my body adapts to the load.

Happy lifting!


Mitch Calvert is a Winnipeg-based fitness coach for men and women like his former self. Heavyset in his 20s, he lost 60 pounds and now helps clients find their spark and lose the weight for life.