Give It a Rest.

Give It A Rest.

I swear this is not a snarky nor snide remark. I promise.  
In light of the holiday season, extra stressors, ridiculous redeployment timelines, and the fact that I’m yet again experiencing those tell-tale signs that my proverbial goose is nearly cooked (feeling lethargic, cranky sinuses and ears), today’s topic is the importance of giving your body a rest, too.

Rest tends to be one of those factors that aren’t programmed into weekly workout schedules or fitness programs. Too often, these mentalities prevail (you’ll probably recognize some of these!): You need to kill it as much as possible or you’re not working up to your potential, rest is for sissies, resting is lazy, you’re going to lose out on calorie-burning opportunities (and therefore, of course, blow up like a balloon) if you cut yourself any slack. The truth is, rest is a HUGE factor in how well you can perform, how effective your weight loss endeavors are, how you feel (mentally and physically), and how well you stave off injury. If you’ve ever been injured, you know how much THAT can hamper your goals!

Some thoughts on the topic of rest as it pertains to fitness:

1. Rest days need to be programmed into your weekly workout schedule. How much rest depends on the intensity of your training, the type of training you’re engaging in, how old you are (sorry, this one’s an ugly fact–I know!), and how much life stress you’re experiencing. For some people, two solid, non-sequential days are enough. For some, two sequential days work best. For some (young-uns, lol) one day a week might suffice. It’s kind of individual, but needs to be a conscious consideration if you want to see progress, avoid getting sick, and feel halfways decent. I prefer two solid non-sequential days off, ideally, because it works for my body’s needs and my schedule.

2. You will have to get adequate sleep to get any kind of positive results in the long-run. Especially as you age, ahem. Again, it’s a bit individual, but generally 7.5 hours of actual sleep feels good for the body (due to the REM cycles, waking after 7.5 hours typically leaves one rested and alert). Here’s a fun read on the importance of sleep to athletes:

3. More is not better. Better is better. Repeat this for me. Post it on your bathroom mirror. Use it as a mantra at the gym. Choose quality over quantity in your workouts, so if fewer reps than programmed feel better, do that. If you need a longer rest period between intervals or sets to fully recover, do that. It’s good to test your limits periodically, but regular grind and pound will leave you feeling like ground meat. Not good. Sometimes we feel amazing, and need less. Sometimes we feel less than amazing and need more (rest). It’s okay–you’re not being a wimp. Check out a read on Rest Based Training. Personally, I love it for clients and myself.

4. Psychological stress reads like physiological stress to the body. For the body, stress is stress. It doesn’t really differentiate between being chased by a bear and tense/worried to the nines about a project, relationship, or PCS move. It’s all exhausting to the body. So when you go through these periods of heightened stress, it’s often the physiological equivalent of running a marathon and then trying to lift more weights, go faster, feel better the day afterwards. I’ve seen it as a trainer with my clients who are in the weeks before and immediately following the beginning of a deployment or during a PCS move. I’ve experienced it firsthand. When you’re in these periods of time, give yourself the win and back off–you ARE ‘giving it all she’s got,’ to steal a phrase from Star Trek (tell me you hear Scotty’s voice with this one…). You cannot get blood from a turnip. So spare yourself some misery and don’t try.

Here’s a little science on this one:

5. You need to be more considerate of your rest programming and overall fitness programming as you age, because ‘mature’ tissues have different needs than young ones–brutal truth. What’s even more brutal is that ‘mature’ is often classified as over 35…I seriously thought I got at least 10 years past that to be considered a ‘mature’ athlete. Guess not. Here’s the deal: older tissues just don’t recover as quickly as they used to. They need more time. They need more flexibility/mobility/soft tissue work. It’s not fair, but it just is. I’ve had to amend my programs to honor my body’s needs–trading in three hard lifting sessions for two during heavy run season, because both endeavors suffered and I NEVER felt good. If I lift two super hard (full-body) programs a week while running hard three days a week, that works better for me than three hard lifts and three hard runs. If I run less, I can lift more. But I have to be considerate of the tissues. Curious how to program for your ‘mature’ body’s needs? Here’s a great read from Eric Cressey with quantifiable recommendations for the ‘mature’ athlete:

With that, I’m off to bed–this currently stressed spirit needs her recovery sleep! What’s more, if my lift doesn’t feel right tomorrow, I’ll scale back. Because better is better, and my performance will improve IF I listen to my body. Happy Resting!

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