I’ve been a chiropractic and sports injury practitioner for 6 years. In that time I’ve found the following patterns and consistencies associated with pain and injury in people who train for extended periods, with little rest.

People who train and exercise the most are often wrought with chronic aches and pains of “unknown origin.”
People with chronic aches and pains have no idea they have been exercising too much for too long.
Taking a *long rest* in most cases eliminates their soft tissue problems.

Based on these findings, I believe that having an off-season from working out and training lets chronic aches and pains heal, and improves overall performance. Combine the off-season with myofascial therapy and chiropractic adjusting and the patient often gets better even faster.

Many of the patients I see are confused by the chronic aches and pains they have, because in many cases they don’t recall doing anything specific to contribute to the various physical problems that ail them. I often hear, “My I.T. band just started to get tight one day when I was on a run and it’s been like this for months,” or “My shoulder just started hurting one day and it’s making my workouts painful.”

The reality is, the body has physical limitations, and with the intensity and frequency people are exercising and training nowadays, they are hurting themselves. Our muscles, tendons, and ligaments can handle a pretty frequent and heavy workload, but at some point they need a rest. A significant rest. Muscular aches and pains are the signs that your body gives you when you are overtraining and pushing too hard for too long. When you don’t “listen” to those signs early on, you can turn something relatively benign into something more severe and chronic.

I have found there is a significant disconnect between what people feel within their muscles and tendons and how hard they are pushing them. They recognize where they feel the pain, yet they don’t know what they are doing to contribute to it. For many, there seems to be an intellectual disconnect between what they are feeling and how it is effecting their body.

They don’t understand that they have been working out and training too long without giving their body sufficient rest. What they need to do is take a long rest from exercise. I’m talking 1-3 months. This is the off-season I refer to.

“What?!?! Stop working out for 3 months? I can’t do that! I’ll go crazy! I’ll get soft!”

This is where athletes are missing the point. They are so concerned with how they think they will feel physically, or how they will look, they continue to workout and train, in essence accepting and living with pain that would likely go away if they just took the long rest.

In a 1-3 month period of rest (the off-season) the muscles, tendons, and ligaments have a chance to heal 100%. A one or two week rest isn’t enough time for soft tissues to fully heal.

We have to treat our bodies as if we were high performance athletes competing in a professional sport, because the human body is a high performance “machine” whether or not we are playing professional football or running the local 10k circuit.

Just as professional football, basketball, and baseball players have an extended off-season, the typical amateur fitness enthusiast or amateur athlete needs to have an off-season to let the muscles, tendons, ligaments and joints heal.

Most of us are aware that the components of physical health include nutrition, exercise, stress management, and rest; to eat healthy foods, get sufficient exercise, keep stress to a minimum, and get a good night’s sleep. But in a day and age where we are pushing our bodies to the extreme both physically and mentally, it’s important to note that a good night’s sleep isn’t sufficient enough rest. Especially if you are the type of person who works out 4-7 days per week throughout the entire year!

I’ve had many of my clients tell me they have been working out and training for years, with little more than a week’s rest once or twice a year during that entire time. This just isn’t enough rest for the body to recover completely.

There is a difference I’ve noticed between people who train continuously for extended lengths of time, and those who train more sporadically and inconsistently for shorter lengths of time. The difference is chronic mild to moderate pain that keeps them from getting their workout at the gym, or performance reductions in competitive events.

Those who constantly train and exercise, pushing their bodies to stay in great shape, or those who run often, exceeding 20+ miles per week, often have aches and pains of some kind that either nag and irritate the body, or they become so irritating and uncomfortable that they eventually have to get to the doctor’s office to try and resolve the problem. These pains can be anything from rotator cuff pain and discomfort for a Cross Fit enthusiast, to iliotibial band or ankle problems for the runner. These people have often seen chiropractors, physical therapists, and orthopedists with little to no improvement or reduction of symptoms. Quite often they’ve jumped from one practitioner to the other, getting X-rays rays taken, having soft tissue and massage therapy performed, being stretched, getting spinal and extremity adjustments, and in some last ditch cases, even getting cortisone injections, all with temporary success.

The one thing that many haven’t tried is an extended period of rest from their workouts. This problem is most commonly found with year-round fitness enthusiast, runners, and competition athletes.

So what is causing all these aches and pains that won’t go away, despite the best efforts of so many medical and health professionals?

I think it’s simple.

Lack of rest! Ignoring the body’s need for an extended period of not working out. A workout sabbatical. Shutting it down. Taking an off-season.

Yep! What I have found is the people who create an off-season for their body usually are much healthier and devoid of muscle and joint aches and pains.

Are you giving your body a rest!