“Rest is for the weak” and “No days off” are just two examples of some things you may hear from your fitness fanatic friends or your rat-racing buddies. We unfortunately live in a society of go, go, go, and always trying to do more than the next person or not stopping until we reach our goal, only to decide we have another goal once we get there. We are constantly moving and doing and we are not taking a chance to stop and enjoy where we are. I want to keep this more geared toward physical rest and recovery by talking about taking a day off from your gym routine, but before I head there I want to share a message that the commencement speaker at my graduation ceremony shared with us. She has an amazing story and accomplished so much; when I heard of everything she has done my jaw dropped. If you want to read more about this amazing woman follow this link here. Beyond all the amazing things she has done with her life, she shared with us all that we need to take a minute to just breathe and to be present in the moment. Enjoy where we are and the people we are with because the little things are what we will miss the most and the people we share these moments with will mean more than all the fame and fortune and success.
Okay now that I have shared that nugget of wisdom lets get into taking actual rest days from the gym or whatever exercise program you follow. Exercise is a stressor, and your body responds to stress of any kind in the exact same way. Your body doesn’t differentiate mental stress from emotional stress from physical stress, stress is stress. The stress of exercise is a good stress to have in your life because it is acute, and once you finish your exercise for the day the stress goes away(that is when you aren’t in the state of overtraining, which can be avoided with a good ole rest day). After exercise there are many changes that are occurring within your body. Whether these changes are occurring at the muscle fibers, mitochondria, or neuroendocrine levels, your body is adapting to the exercise stimulus you have just placed on it. Lets look at the muscle fiber changes from something like resistance training. When you lift weights and then feel sore the next day or two, that is a result of your muscles physically (micro)tearing and your body working to repair the damage. There was a study conducted that reported that muscle regeneration can take up 28 days to occur. That is almost an entire month of your body working to repair muscle damage(the kind you want) from exercise. So if your body can potentially be working to fully repair muscles back to 100% for 28 days after one day of exercise don’t you think you can give your body a break for one day?
I know it is hard when we live in a society that makes taking a day off seem like the end of the world. If we aren’t going 1000mph everyday 24/7, 365 then we feel like we are going to fall behind or not be successful. This way of thinking needs to stop. I am not sure when it became such a bad thing to stop and enjoy a day of nothing and when tackling one task at a time became a rarity, but I think we as a society need to get back to that. When Sundays(or whatever day you want) were for sleeping in, slow mornings, sipping coffee and enjoying breakfast with your family and filling the rest of your day with nothing or everything as long as its what you want to do. I like to get to the gym 6 days a week and fill my Mondays-Fridays with anything and everything I can, but I know that once the weekend hits I’m taking my foot off the gas and putting myself in park come Sunday. It is also important to listen to your body and familiarize yourself with how your body lets you know you need to pump the brakes. For me I start to feel sick or waking up and staying awake becomes a lot more difficult. It is okay to take multiple days off if your body is telling you it needs to rest. Even changing your typical routine from long runs to yoga, or from pumping that iron to spin class. Do something different to rest the muscles that are constantly being worked, while still getting a workout in.
Long story short, you are doing your body a disservice by not taking a day to relax and unwind. Taking a day off isn’t the end of the world and you might actually be surprised how much you can accomplish on your off day and how much you enjoy having a structureless, plan free day.
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