Rest is one of the most important elements of an exercise program. The other two are 1) exercising on a regular basis and 2) eating a healthy, well balanced diet.
Rest is one of the things that I am definitely not getting right now and my training has been suffering because of it. Marlaena and I had a baby boy, named Declan, last month and neither of us have gotten a full night of sleep since! I've been pretty lucky and usually get 4 to 6 hours a night (which 2 months ago wouldn't have seemed lucky at all!!) but Mar hasn't slept more than 2 or 3 hours in a row for over 6 weeks now.
Don't get me wrong.. I love the kid to death and wouldn't want to change a thing but man, if somebody would have told me how tough the first couple months were going to be and how badly sleep deprivation beats you down mentally, physically and emotionally, I would have taken out a second mortgage and hired a full time, live in nanny!!
Stan "The Rhino" Efferding says that only 20% of your gains happen in the gym and 80% happen outside of the gym while resting, recovering and eating a crap load of good food.
The barbell club that I run recently completed a 12 week squat cycle. I was making great gains the first couple months but after the baby arrived, there was zero sleep to be had, I barely had time to think about food, let alone eat well and just did my best to get enough calories to keep me going. Needless to say... my strength slowly started to diminish and I struggled my way through the final 4 weeks of the cycle.
I still managed to squeak out a new 20lb personal best on my back squat (345lbs) as well as a 25lb jump on my front squat (280lbs). I was pretty stoked about those numbers but know I can do better and would have liked to have been more rested and felt stronger both physically and mentally in the weeks leading up to those max attempts. We're starting a new strength cycle in a week or two so I'll get the opportunity to break those numbers in a few months.
I'm training for my first powerlifting competition this Summer so I'm really hoping I can get my life back to a somewhat normal routine. Mar and I were talking about this the other night though.. and both said that this might be the new norm. Yikes!!
So if you're pushing yourself hard, no matter if it's lifting weights or training for a marathon, make sure you get lots of rest and recovery time between your training sessions to give your muscles, joints and nervous system a chance to recoup.
Sleep deep and eat well.