By Natalie DeGenova, Contributing blogger (@nat.nova)
Rest day: the mere thought of this during my college years made me feel weak; as though they were something a person ‘serious’ about fitness shouldn’t need or want to take if they really wanted to challenge themselves.
My perspective on this (now that you’ve read the title of this article) couldn’t have possibly been more off course.
Once you’re established and have begun to maintain a steady exercise regimen, it is fairly common to get carried away with the process and the endorphins that come along with it. Perhaps it has something to do with the ‘always on’ mentality our fast-paced generation now has. If we are available via email to our jobs 7 days a week, why shouldn’t the same go for our daily spin class?
The truth is, improvements in our workout game happen after and not during the workout.
That said, the best thing we can do to ensure we’re on track to reach our goals is to consciously incorporate active recovery or “rest” days into our schedules. Think of it as a mandatory personal day your boss has strictly ordered from your Pilates class.
The reason for all of this goes beyond keeping us sane and allowing for more after-work happy hours or a few extra minutes in the morning to snooze instead of sweat. Our bodies signal an inflammatory response following an intense workout in order to make sure we’re recovering properly. If we do too much of this high level exercise, the inflammation level our bodies create will end up increasing to a point where it can weaken our immune systems in the process. This is in addition to the more apparent ‘overdoing it’ outcome of over-training syndrome which occurs when too much stress is placed on our bodies before recovery even begins, upping the risk for joint pain, stress fractures and muscle strain.
When we take a day off to rest, eat right (key word: right not less!), and get quality sleep, we come back to our next workout stronger because our bodies have had the chance to repair and prepare for our progress to continue.
So now you’ve heard the technicalities behind why rest days are essential. But what about why you need them just for YOU?
#SelfCare remains one of the buzziest phrases of 2019, and with good reason. According to the Oxford Dictionary, self-care is the practice of taking action to preserve or improve one’s own health.
This looks different for every person as we recover and care for our needs in various ways, but have you sat down lately and asked yourself: What motivates me?
Once you discover what your true motivation is and what you’re working towards (short and long-term goals), you’ll have a much clearer understanding of how you should best get your DIY self-care on. This can be by taking a rest day to do your favorite things like eating a burger with a cocktail and meeting up with friends for drinks after work. It can be yoga poses in the park followed by baking cookies with the kids. Do it up! Be creative, and most importantly, stay true to YOU. No one knows your body better than you so make sure you’re listening to it.
This sounds obvious, but in many ways (largely influenced by our society), we train ourselves to push past the point of our limitations. We thrust ourselves to the point of mental & physical exhaustion, burn-out, and injury in order to ‘get ahead’. Striving towards our goals and keeping ourselves strict and on track is one thing, but going beyond the point of what’s healthy for your body is a whole other bridge we simply shouldn’t risk crossing.
I implore all who read this to do me just one favor: plan your next rest day and plan it like you’re mapping out your next European vacation. From the time your alarm goes off until the time you tuck yourself back into those cozy sheets with a face mask and your favorite essential oils (Team Lavender over here!), figure out what you’ll do to take a mental AND physical break that will make you live your best life and get you even more psyched to crush your next workout.