The question I want you to ask yourself first is, “why do I exercise?” This isn’t a trick question, but whatever you answer with is a form of motivation. Training, simply to train, is a self motivating factor or an, “intrinsic factor,” that is what gets us to the gym each day.
It’s the same as training to look good, perform better, or run a marathon. Now on the other hand, some train to look like those on the covers of magazines, perform like professional athletes, or lift with their significant other. These are all extrinsic factors that keep us motivated and are not necessarily wrong, but they definitely need to be realistic/reasonable.
Motivation is important because it’s how training starts, my 11th grade teacher would yell, “motivation!” in the hallways, not to be annoying, but to make students think, even though most found it obnoxious. What you need to ask yourself is: are my motivating factors reasonable and sustainable?
For example, if you’re 40 and you decide you want to win a marathon, that may not be a reasonable goal. Instead, you can say, “I want to complete a half marathon," then a full marathon, then finish Top 10, then Top 5 and so on. These are sustainable, reasonable, and attainable goals, and can keep you on track.
But how does this all start? Well, stress! Think about the first time you ever went out for a run, it probably sucked, and by the end you were full of relief to be done! But truly think about how hard that was, your heart was racing and when you finished there was a choice to be made based on how that first run went.
You may have decided you're never doing that again because you're out of shape and never want to feel that kind of sensation again. On the other hand some will decide they will run again, because they’re out of shape, and never want to feel that sensation again. Do you see the slight change in mentality?
This kind of stress will temporarily produce a heightened response, which is essentially the alarm phase (think fight or flight response). This is produced by our sympathetic nervous system (so think heart rate rising), that temporarily slows digestion (so if you’ve ever thrown up from training, this is because our body is temporarily acidic, which triggers acid reflux). Then as we rest, either during or after training, it becomes parasympathetic (relaxation response/heart rate slowing).
Now that the body is winding down, it goes almost immediately into recovery mode, aka “feed and fix everything!” After a day of rest you decide to repeat the run again and notice it’s a little easier, which means your body is already adapting to the stimulus, which is really freaking cool!
What will come with this physiological response is general soreness and each time that run is repeated, that soreness will lessen each time, so as a runner you would need to increase the distance you run. Or as someone that lifts weights, you would maybe increase the frequency of training from 2 days/week to 3 days/week. As training frequency increases, the more stress we place on our body, which in turn will trigger a more frequent insulin response (repairing muscle damage and replenishing glycogen storage). This is why recovery is the most important piece to better the stress response from training.
Without food, water, and rest... training will be much harder the next time around and motivation levels will be much lower. Rest is the direction we head into next week and how it helps aid in recovery!