The Gym Spy -- You're Resting Too Much

woman lifting barbell
Photo by greg westfall.
Taylor Ryan, The Stir's personal trainer, is sleuthing the gyms and clubs, reporting on common workout mistakes that hold us back from the killer body we want.

The gym intel:

As a Gym Spy (I call myself Taylor 008), I'm much more alert and observant to what's going on around me in my home away from home. Scanning others gives me something to do during my rest period, which brings me to the issue at hand ...

Taking rest periods a bit too far. Let's recap the conversations I overheard this week (sorry if they were one of yours):

  • Two young girls talking about partying too hard the weekend before and not feeling "normal" until three days later ...
  • The guy who was trying way too hard to flirt with the girl a few benches away by bragging about his new boat ...
  • The guys who thought they were the coolest guys ever comparing the fancy stuff on their cars, chrome this, chrome that, etc ...

It's true that your muscles need time to recover and regain creatine phosphate, the muscle energy, in between sets, so rest time is important for a good workout. Rushing back into your set before muscles regain that energy is counterproductive.

On the other hand, if you rest or talk too long, your muscles actually recover too much and you end up falling short on the intensity meter, leading to less fat burn. Later you may complain about spending too much time at the gym with limited results.

How long should you be resting?

If your workout routine is designed around fat burning, try to keep rest relatively short, around 60 seconds and no more than 80 seconds. If you're trying to tone up and add muscle and are lifting heavy, then you'll need longer rest -- 90 seconds to 3 minutes.

But just remember there's a difference between resting and wasting time. During each recovery, you should be engaging in "active rest."

This means a light activity for a set time. If others see you moving, they'll be less likely to approach you for Chatty Cathy time. Great examples of active rest include: Jumping jacks, running in place, and jump rope (my favorite).

Still, even the most focused exercisers get bombarded with interruptions from fellow gym-goers. Here's how I suggest you handle it:

  • I set my timer on my watch, and when it's time to get back to the heavy work, I politely tell them, "Oh, my rest is over, I'll catch up after my workout." This works pretty well.
  • If you have a workout partner who also is your favorite gossip, tell her that you want to increase the intensity of the workout to get better results for the both of you, and that you're on a set "talk time" and leave it to the locker room.

Remember, not too short ... not too long is just perfect to help you tone up and lose weight. Just keep the talking and TV to a minimum.


Taylor Ryan is head trainer for The Art of Weight Lifting and the Charleston, South Carolina-based Fat Blasting Boot Camps for Moms. She's also at The Stir every Friday with a new Personal Training Workout.

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