If you’ve been following one of our workout programs, or our Workout Wednesday videos on Instagram, then you’re probably familiar with this technique called rest-based training. In a nutshell, we can summarize this approach with our mantra: “Push until you can’t, then rest until you can.” Sounds simple, right? It is if you’ve been training to become a metabolic detective. That’s because metabolic detectives know how to read and understand their body’s biofeedback cues. In this post, I’m going to teach you how to use rest-based training to get the results you desire.

Pushing to the point of rest is the goal in a rest-based workout. It’s not about pacing.

Rest-based training allows you to tailor each exercise session to your personal fitness level and needs. The mantra of this approach is this: “Push until you can’t, then rest until you can.”

Or, push hard. Rest hard. 

Rest is the key to success because quality rest is required to produce quality work. It is a win-win for the metabolism. If you force yourself to go on or you start pacing yourself, you will not get the results you desire.

So, how do you know if you’re pushing yourself hard enough to produce results? We have an awareness-based tool called Workout Biofeedback. We can use our body’s physical responses during exercise to better understand what it looks and feels like to “push until you can’t”.

There are 4 main biofeedback signals that we can experience during exercise. Dr. Jade Teta calls them the “Bs and Hs”. They are breathless, burning, heavy, and heat.

An effective workout should increase the demand on our metabolism, eliciting a number of hormonal responses that prime the metabolism to respond and adapt. This is how we stimulate muscle growth, get stronger, and burn fat. Under the right conditions, such as sufficient rest and recovery, these adaptations are supportive of our body change goals.

Tip: If you don’t feel the Bs and Hs during, post, or the 24-48 hours after exercise, then chances are, you didn’t push hard enough. 

But hey, that’s ok! 

This is a process of learning how to read and understand your body’s biofeedback cues, and your need for rest. If you’re new to exercise, recovering from an injury, or just getting back into exercise, you likely need time to develop this self-awareness. Take it slow, and never never never push through pain, injuries, or physical limitations. We want you to push yourself safely! If you’re not sure if you’re physically ready, speak to a doctor or a qualified healthcare provider before starting any exercise program. 

A quick side note on pacing. There is a time and place for steady state cardio, which is more aligned with pacing. The type of exercise you do, and how you do that exercise, determines the hormonal outcome of the workout, and therefore, the results that you get. One is not better than the other. Let me put it this way. Any exercise is better than none. It just depends on your goals, personal preferences, current fitness level, and physical capacity/ability to exercise.

In most cases, people engage in physical activity to achieve a specific endpoint, i.e. to lose fat and/or to gain lean muscle mass. As a general rule of thumb, if you start pacing yourself, you will not get the results you desire.

This is also true for pushing yourself too hard.

Sufficient rest and recovery is equally as important as the exercise itself. Work and rest are synergists. They are not opposites. If you force yourself to go on, ignoring your body’s biofeedback, you may end up hurting yourself, exhausting yourself, or causing adverse metabolic compensation effects (SHMEC goes out of check). That’s a no-no.  

Our workouts at ML are designed to force you to rest. You should never feel bad about taking too much rest. 

Sufficient recovery is the key to sufficient intensity. We want you to work hard AND rest hard. For those of you who are just starting out with this style of training, you may only exercise for a few minutes of an entire 15-minute workout. The remainder of the time will be rest. Others who are more trained may rest less. 

Your need to rest and how you choose to rest is also based on your personal physiology, personal preferences and practical circumstances. On the preferences front, some people prefer to take shorter and more frequent rests. Others prefer longer, less frequent rests. Physiologically speaking, your need for rest could change day-to-day or month-to-month depending on your menstrual cycle or health status. Personal factors, such as work-life balance and stress levels could play a role too.

The amount you need to rest, and how hard you can safely push yourself, will change as your overall fitness level and ability to recover increases. In the meantime, stay open and curious to your biofeedback, including your Bs and Hs, SHMEC, exercise performance and recovery, menstruation, etc.

To get the results you desire, remember to listen to your body. Challenge yourself, but be safe. Use your Bs and Hs to gauge the intensity of your exercise. Rest until you’re physically and psychologically ready to jump back into your workout. And lastly, use SHMEC to monitor the hormonal effects of exercise on your metabolic health. 

Photo by Dan Burton on Unsplash