Rest days. Something all of us gym rats know we need to partake in, but often have a hard time doing. We are regularly exposed to phrases such as "no days off" or "no pain, no gain." While working hard and pushing ourselves in the gym is excellent, we must realize that we need to rest to recover and reach our goals. When we rest, we give our mind and body time to repair and restore our muscles. It's during rest that our muscles grow, and we make the most physical progress. So the question is, if we know resting helps us reach our goals, why is it so hard to take a day off?
In the past, I've struggled to take rest days. I knew I physically needed them, but the thought of not working out would drive me crazy. I would spend a good portion of the day thinking about exercise, feeling sluggish, and speaking negatively to myself. I felt lazy and antsy. Working out helps me to relieve stress, improve my sleep, stay focused, and boost my confidence, but deep down, I knew training hard every day would be counterproductive.
Change Your Perspective on Rest Days
How did I overcome these negative feelings I experienced on my days off? I changed the way I viewed my rest days. Instead of seeing rest days as a negative, I saw it as a day to honor my body and appreciate all it does for me. This simple shift in mindset has changed my way of thinking. As a result, I've reached my fitness goals, experienced less stress, and felt happier!
I often find people are so caught up in programming, tracking their macros, etc. that they forget one of the essential parts of the program, their mental health. While exercise selection and nutrition are crucial, it's vital not to forget that the way we speak to ourselves is just as important. We must work to view ourselves as a whole, rather than an hour workout, 30 grams of protein, or a good sweat. Our emotional health is just as important as our physical health. Emotional stress can result in physical stress. Just because you're physically resting doesn't mean you're giving your body the proper rest it needs. If you're spending your whole rest day sitting on the couch thinking negative thoughts, you won't make a full recovery. Lack of recovery will result in chronic fatigue, which can lead to overuse injuries, sleep disturbance, sickness, and can significantly impact your psychological health.
Break Your Routine
Now, I use rest days as a day to practice gratitude. I take this time to partake in activities that make me feel good and remind me to slow down and be present. I typically spend an hour to an hour and a half of my time every day at the gym, so by resting, I have more time on my hands. This allows for more time spent outdoors, more time to explore a new hobby, run errands, or spend time with family and friends. Try to view rest as an opportunity to break your routine and nourish your soul.
While routine is excellent, I find that too much of the same thing can often lead to burn out. Use your rest days to break the mold, keep life fun, and stay energized. Sometimes, to reconnect, we must disconnect. On my rest days, I like to spend time at a local farmers market and pick out my food for the week ahead. As I walk through the market, I appreciate all of the hard work my body did for me that week, and I show gratitude to my body by picking out healthy, nutrient-dense foods that will help me to recover and feel energized.
Another element to my rest day is self-reflecting in my journal. I weekly find checking in with myself has been important for my personal growth. You can write about how you're feeling at the moment or perhaps get more specific by touching on your training and nutrition from that week. For example, you can journal about where you could have improved when it comes to making healthy food choices, or maybe you experienced some emotional eating in the days prior. That's ok, journal about it. By expressing your emotions on paper, you're more likely to get to the root cause of the negative choices or feelings you've experienced. Journaling is a great way to create awareness of some unhealthy patterns you have that are hindering your ability to become the best version of you. When we take the time to speak our truths, we gain self-awareness and become one step closer to the healthiest version of ourselves.
When I take the time to slow down and appreciate my day off, I find I go back to the gym feeling recharged and highly motivated. Not only are my workouts better both mentally and physically, but I'm determined to stay consistent long term.
Take some time this week to slow down and appreciate your rest day. Your body works so hard for you every day. It's time for you to return the favor and give it the love it deserves.