The pressure is on when it comes to being fit. When I turn on the news or check out social media feeds, I keep seeing “exercise is good, inactivity is bad.” And when I talk to others about exercise, the same thing seems to come up: stay committed and don’t stop!
Being a person who likes to get everything right, I’m getting freaked out that if I don’t train every day, I’m not going to achieve results. In fact, due to general busyness in life, I have not had the chance to get a work out in the last couple of days and I wonder: Have “rest days” thrown all the hard work of the last few weeks out the window?
Looking into it, I’m finding relieving information: rest days are important and actually necessary. The most obvious reason is, though we may be in denial, our bodies are not machines and require time to repair damaged or strained tissue. Without rest, even the most seasoned athlete could end up with a severe injury or breakdown of muscle.
But going beyond the obvious, there are worse psychological risks associated with over-training. If we neglect rest and recovery too long, it can lead to a harmful condition referred to as “over-training syndrome.” It is the product of over-stressing the body beyond its capacity to a level that is very hard to recover from. With the syndrome, sufferers experience lack of sleep though being quite fatigued, hormonal imbalances that can lead to mood swings and reproductive problems, appetite loss and decreased immunity.
Many feel that constant training is necessary for one reason: we don’t want to lose momentum or motivation. And I get that completely, I’m in the same boat! So I’ve been shopping around from friends and fitness gurus in my life and have collected 5 activities that are still considered rest days but aren’t idle. I like to refer to them as “deliberate rest days,” as they are planned and still benefit our fitness goals.
1. Stretch: Stretching is relaxing. Sometimes there is no better feeling than stretching forgotten muscles and relishing in the relief. Stretching is also beneficial to our fitness goals as it prepares our bodies for workouts to come and decreases injuries.
2. Pleasurable activity: These are activities that are not too impactful but still keep the body in light, non-straining motion. Go for a stroll around the neighborhood, swim, kick the soccer ball around with your kids or dance a little. No one said rest has to mean sitting.
3. Meditation: Meditation is great for the mind and great for the soul. It also helps us be more mindful and in-tune with our body, needs and goals. Destressing the mind can do wonders for the destressing the physical body as well!
4. Acupuncture or massage: This is a no-brainer. Both are relaxing and can target problem areas on your body and prevent chronic injury or stresses. If money is an issue, check out my new favorite activity: foam rolling.
5. Sleep: Sleep is necessary for good physical and mental health. And who doesn’t want a free pass for an afternoon nap? Plan an hour where you bask in the glory of your bed (or couch or lawn chair) and turn your phone to silent. It is well deserved, after all!