A long standing female client said to me the other day:
"Well Fred! You look in such good shape. How often do you exercise? Everyday I'll bet!"
The brainwashing runs deep. While I appreciated the comment very much (all I did was take off 10 pounds), it bothered me to no end that, once again, I failed to educate.
Now, if she - a client for over 10 years - thought this, what must all of YOU be thinking about exercise I pondered. Do you still think the more exercise better? If so, allow me to explain.
Exercise, when done in a manner that stimulates the process of positive tissue (bone, muscle, tendon) remodeling, requires that the person allow for adequate recovery. All of the little physiological gizmos that roar into motion after performing exercises that cause muscle tissue "breakdown" need to go through their entire rebuilding process before more of the same happens again if you want the best results possible.
Exercise = breakdown. Rest = recovery. Recovery = physical improvement.
A good analogy is the process of a wound healing. You get cut. Now your body has to "knit one, pearl two" and go about repairing and regenerating new tissue. This takes time. Since we all have experienced a cut or wound in our lives, have any of you ever been cut and the the very next day the would was completely healed? Never right? And the severity matters as well. The more severe the injury, the longer the recovery takes. The more intense the exercise, the better the overall stimulation but more recovery is required.
Now about rest and recovery. I'm not saying you need to act like Rip Van Winkle and sleep for 20 years. What I mean is time away from exercise that is strong enough to cause breakdown. I'm not talking about a walk in the park with your honey-bunny or a leisurely bike ride in the park with you 10 year old. I'm talking about hard, intense exercise - the kind you know will cause you benefits.
Research shows that most people need at least a full day away and in my experience 2-3 days away from the tough stuff in order to recover fully. This assumes you are putting a hard effort into your training. I define hard as working the muscles enough that in each of your exercises you reach a very deep point of muscle fatigue.
Currently I strength train twice weekly. I have trained three times a week with good results but the results were not much better if better at all. If I train just once a week for too long of a period of time (~2 months) I experience losses in strength and my physique appears less robust - to me at least.
The point is this - you enjoy the benefits from specific exercises that cause benefits when you are resting.
Allow me to repeat myself - you derive the benefits from exercise when you are resting, when you are resting, resting, resting, resting, resting...