On the Importance of Rest Days

It seems contradictory to post about how to overcome inactivity only to follow it up by writing about…inactivity.

It’s not though, and here’s why.

Once we get moving, and we make daily fitness a habit, it can be hard to stop. It’s especially hard to willingly plan to stop.

For some reason, we fear rest days.

Most likely, this fear stems from a fear of regression. If I take today off, I’ll gain back all the weight I’ve lost/I’ll lose all my strength gains/I won’t continue the habit of daily exercise.

One rest day won’t cause a setback and might actually cause you to lurch forward!

When you take a rest day, you’re allowing your body and mind a chance to grow, replenish, and recharge. And a planned rest day is much better than the alternative: Pushing through doing moremoremoremore until wham-o you’re burned out and overtrained and need weeks to recover.

More is not always better: 

  1. The workouts you do initiate a break-down sequence of events in your body, and while there’s value in moving when you’re sore/tired, your body can only repair itself while at rest. Typically, your body can recover on a good night’s sleep…but chances are, those can be hard to come by! A full day off of your regularly scheduled fitness routine lets your body get busy mending the damage from the days before so you can come back stronger.
  2. Your mind needs a change of pace. Give it a day off of strategizing pacing, bar math, calculating where to place your steps on the trail, making and missing lifts.
  3. You’ll learn how best your body operates. Maybe 3 days on 1 day off is where your body thrives. Maybe you can do 5 days on 2 days off with one of those ‘off’ days being light active recovery. Maybe you do best with 2 days on 1 day off. Every body is different, with different repair rates. Play with it! Figure out what balance works best for your body and mind.
  4. Overtraining and burnout are real, and they are no fun. They can be absolutely prevented. You know that saying, “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure?” Well, a day of conscientious rest is worth a week or more of forced rest from overtraining.

Signs of overtraining and burn-out include: inability to sleep, change in appetite, lack of motivation for training/exercise, increased resting heart rate, irritability, depression, increase in injuries, and incessant muscle soreness.

Don’t let it come to that. Keep your fitness and exercise routine a positive, energizing experience by giving yourself the break you deserved. Plan it, earn it, enjoy it!

From Rest to Motion

When you know what you should do, but it isn’t want you want to do.

You know you should eat more vegetables, but you just don’t like them and would rather have your fill of meat. When you know you should get up and move, but you want to stay in your comfy seat, or sleep in, or head straight home after work.

It’s called inertia: an object at rest stays at rest, and an object in motion stays in motion, until acted on by outside forces.

Okay, so maybe eating the vegetables is more of a habit than an act of inertia. That’ll be a topic for another day.

The decision to move, to be more active, takes a tremendous amount of force. In this case, the force isn’t physical (unless you’ve hired someone to literally push you out of bed in the morning, or hook a leash onto you and drag you around the block for a walk…). It’s a psychological force, one that initiates from within and begins with a conscious decision on your part to do.something.

This is why it’s important for your activity to be one you love. Yes, LOVE. Something that even on the days when you “don’t feel like it” you know that once you’re done you’ll be glad you did. And on the days when you’re not loving it, that’s okay too. You will still reap the benefits of movement, and it’s often on those days that growth happens. I’m not talking about if you’re injured; I’m talking about the days when you have a million and one excuses to get out of it but no real reason beyond, “I just don’t want to.”

Show up, do work, be satisfied.

Be your own outside force from within. It starts with making the decision.

“And there is still a lot to learn…”

Robin Williams: “And there is still a lot to learn and there is always great stuff out there. Even mistakes can be wonderful.” 

Please visit Lifeline for more information.

You are NEVER alone.

If you have a loved one in your life who you are concerned about, let them know they are not alone.

Re-Launch

Life got in the way. 

There is no excuse, or any good reason, for my writing hiatus. In retrospect, keeping up with this blog would have done me a world of good. Writing is my creative outlet, and staying on top of this might have gotten me through some of the funk I found myself in since my last post 18 months ago. 

But back I am, and this is my promise to both myself and to you, Internet Reader, to be more reliable. 

My goal is the same: To help you realize that it is possible, no matter where you are in your own life, to be healthier, fitter, more well, than you are now. That somewhere inside you is person who was made to move, and that you can embrace that movement. That you can achieve *your* perfect balance of healthy eating and pleasure eating, relaxation and athleticism. That health, fitness and wellness is about more than the numbers on the scale. 

“Everyone is an athlete. The only difference is that some of us are in training and some are not.” George Sheehan

Mental Snacks

Take care of your body. It is the only place you have to live. (Jim Rohn)

If you always put limits on everything you do, physical or anything else, it was spread into your work and your life. There are no limits. There are only plateaus, and you must not stay there, you must go beyond them. ~Bruce Lee~

No matter who you are, no matter what you do, you absolutely, positively do have the power to change. -Bill Philips

Believe me, the reward is not so great without the struggle. ~Wilma Rudolph

Just because you’re not sick doesn’t mean you’re healthy.

Even in a country like the USA where fitness has become an obsession, most people exercising do not seem to think it illogical to drive automobiles to gyms while doing their best to avoid walking. {Dave Wilson}

You have only always to do what is right. It will become easier by practice, and you enjoy it in the midst of your trials the pleasure of an approving conscience. –Gen. Robert E. Lee–

Every thought is a seed. If you plant Crab Apples, don’t count on harvesting Golden Delicious. (Bill Meyer)

A trophy carries dust. Memories last forever. [Mary Lou Retton]

Right actions in the future are the best apologies for bad actions in the past. ~Tyron Edwards

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Revisiting “Athlete”

ath/lete: a person who is trained or skilled in exercises, sports, or games requiring physical strength, agility, or stamina; from the Latin athleta, from the Greek athletes, from athlein — to contend for a prize, from athlon —prize, contest

So says Merriam-Webster.

The premise of this blog though, is that you need not be ‘skilled’ in a sport in order to call yourself an athlete. Being an athlete is deeper than ‘prizes’ and ‘contests’ and goes further than donning a uniform and representing your community or country. Whether your glory days lasted until high school, or you never had any glory days to begin with, my hope is that whatever physical activity you participate in for your health and wellbeing you embrace as a part of who you are and what you can become. 

We call this exercise identity—

“when an adherent integrates the activity into his or her own conception of self.” (Ellis Cashmore, 2008, Sport and Exercise Psychology: The Key Concepts). 

Even if you take a different class each month at your gym, or never enter a competition for speed-walking or weight lifting, or only use cardio equipment and never step foot outdoors, or only walk your dog around the neighborhood, embracing that activity as a part of who you are—that you are an active being—allows you be an athlete. 

Be dedicated to bettering yourself. Make time to be physical. Take new routes. Try new things. Give it 100%. Take pride in your accomplishments. Set goals. Crush your goals. Recover. Sweat. 

Set aside your excuses. Turn off the voice in your head that’s telling you you can’t do it, shouldn’t do it, are too out of shape to do it, that’s telling you to wait for a more convenient time. It may never come, for life continues to charge forward even while we’re gazing backwards wishing it hadn’t changed. Whatever your sport is, whatever your exercise routine consists of, embrace it as a part of who you are. You are not a poser just because you don’t have the grace of your instructor or the speed of an elite professional. 

There’s an athlete in all of us. It’s time to let them be unleashed. Image

Working Out When You Caught a Bug

Exercise strengthens your immune system. Most of the time. If you’ve ever heard that intense exercise can actually weaken your immune system in the hours post-workout, the jury is still out on that. So far, there is no conclusive correlation between exercise and sickness; but, since exercise is a part of a healthy lifestyle and improves your cardiovascular health, it stands to reason that exercising might strengthen your immune system as well.

Of course your immune system is just that—a system. There is no one magic bullet for preventing sickness, nor is there any one thing that can shorten the life of your illness when you do get sick (that goes for you too, Vitamin C!). 

Say you do catch a bug this winter season. Do you let it mess with your workout routine?

It depends on what your symptoms are.

First and foremost, try your absolute best to follow your body’s lead. Your workout will always be ready and waiting for you to return. If you are not sleeping well, are fatigued or are just having an overall hard time functioning in your daily tasks, it’s your body’s way of telling you that it needs rest and relaxation. Your body is already working in overdrive fighting the virus (and yes, both colds and flus are viruses), there is no need to add to its workload by making it repair muscles. 

If you have a cold, with runny nose, stuffed sinuses, and a sore throat, it’s best to keep to gentle activities such as walking or yoga. As soon as your symptoms clear, you can resume more intensive workouts

If you have more severe symptoms such as swollen lymph nodes, a fever, and muscle aches, it’s recommended that you give your body 2-4 weeks to recover from the illness. 

The rule of thumb is that if your symptoms are only from the neck up (besides the swollen glands) it’s generally fine to continue with a modified version of your routine. Otherwise, rest as much as you possibly can.

Remember, doctors say that a cold lasts seven days without treatment, and a week with treatment. 

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No Membership Required

First things first: There is absolutely nothing wrong with joining a gym, a club, a group, in order to get your fitness on. It can vital to those who live anywhere where the temps drop into single digits and the snow and ice accumulate. It can be a great way to break cabin fever, to make new friends, to try something new or to gain a support group.

It is not a necessity.

It’s nice to have cool equipment, barbells and ropes. It’s not a necessity.

If the economy still has a tight grip on your budget, do not let block you from achieving your fitness and health goals.

What you’ll need: Determination.

The hard part about working out at home is the temptation. Temptation to dig into the fridge, or stay on the couch for just a little longer. You may also think that you can’t get in a real workout if you’re at home. You can bring your whole body to fatigue, even failure, if you’re determined to do so.

Try it, with no rest in between moves:

25 jumping jacks — 25 squats — 15 regular push-ups — 20 sumo squats — 15 diamond push-ups — 25 squats — 15 dive-bombers — 20 burpees —repeat sequence until done!

You may need to get dressed as if you’re going to the gym in order to “get in the mood” to work out at home. You may need to set it in your agenda. The beauty of it is that you don’t have to do anything special. If you have a few minutes, you can do something to get you a little further down the path of fitness. Something is better than nothing.

And remember, you do not need to be “in the mood” to work out. You don’t need to “feel like it.” You can get a good workout in even if you don’t want to do it. No one said you needed to have a burning passion in order to get fit. Getting the work done, no matter your mood or emotions while doing it, is one step closer to a life of health.

 

6 Days into the New Year: Where Are Your Resolutions?

How are those New Year’s Resolutions going? 

On 1-1-13, LifeTime held a nationwide 5K they dubbed “a rally, not a race” known as Commitment Day. It was quite a brilliant concept. Start the new year off not in competition with others, but rather as a pact with yourself to actually fulfill your goals this year. You can see on their FB page that this event was attended by myriad groups wanting to make this a year of change. 

It was brilliant because if we could get out there and do 5 kilometers in the middle of winter, then what can’t we do? 

If you have not yet gotten serious about your goals for the next 12 months, it’s not too late (It’s Never Too Late!). 

Think about what you want to achieve. 

If it’s broad or general, such as “lose weight” or “get healthy”, that’s a grand start. What is the biggest obstacle that’s been keeping you from losing weight or being healthy? Eating fast food too often? Drinking 4 cups of coffee a day? Late night snacking? Lack of physical activity? Pinpoint a specific change that needs to be made. 

Now that you have a more specific change to make, commit to what you are going to do on a weekly basis to address it. Run twice a week? Make Mondays Meatless? Only visit Starbucks once a day on Wednesday? Then, commit to that for this week. 

That’s right, just this week. No need to concern yourself with long-term planning at the moment.  

This time next week, you can reassess if you can increase your commitment. Or, you can decide to stick with what you’re already doing to make it more of a firm habit.

One week at a time. Before you know it, 52 will have passed.Image 

The Walk of Shame (DOMS)

You’ve done it: Woken up one morning, not feeling quite right. Attempted to get out of bed, but then plop back down, groaning. You wonder why you let yourself get into such a mess, why you thought it was a good idea at the time. Why didn’t you drink more water? Why did you go so hard so fast? Who did you let talk you into this? You go about your morning routine, hoping it wears off by the time you get to work, that maybe no one will notice. But you’re limping; picking up that box causes you to wince; you have to rotate your entire body to look to the side as you are unable to turn from your core. 

You are suffering the effects of The Morning After, known as Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness…DOMS. 

You most likely experience DOMS after you do an exercise for the first time, the first time after a hiatus, or at an intensity beyond your norm. It could be yoga, it could be just stretching, it could have been running or weight lifting or swimming. In any case, you are now sore, stiff, and wondering what to do about it. 

It used to be believed that DOMS was caused by a build-up of lactic acid. We now know that this is not the case

When you exercise, you create micro-tears in your muscle fibers. It is through this tearing-and-healing process that your muscles become stronger and thicker (which is why rest is VITAL to your workouts…but that’s another post). These micro-tears, well, they hurt! Pain is your body’s way of making you aware of an injury; it has nothing to do with weakness. Essentially, DOMS is an injury. However, it is not necessarily one that requires you to be sidelined.

How you treat your DOMS depends on its severity. Time is the only true healer. In the meantime, ideally, you should not do the exercise that caused it until your muscles have healed, e.g., if your calves are sore from a rope-skipping session, you’ll want to avoid another rope-skipping workout. Light stretching can help relieve tightness and may help deliver “fresh” oxygenated blood to the damaged area. Epsom salt baths can alleviate some of the soreness. Massage, if not deep-tissue, can also bring some relief (tennis balls, foam rollers, and any various forms of The Stick and its generic cousins also work). Heat and/or ice may help; neither have been proven scientifically, but athletes claim it helps

The pain should subside in 3-7 days. If it’s lasted over a week, please see a sports injury specialist/therapist. 

Can you avoid DOMS? If you’re attempting a new activity, probably not completely. What you can do is warm up (dynamic, please! no static stretching, that only leads to injury); push yourself, but not pedal-to-the-metal; cool-down; and stretch. 

Enjoy the fruits of your workout without the embarrassing morning-after limp.