Have you allowed yourself time to rest and recuperate?
Why is it so hard to take a rest day? The perception of laying on the couch for a nap brings me a lot of anxiety. Your body may be saying “no more” while your head says, “let’s go.” It’s a constant battle to do more, be more and have a lot more. Back in my 20’s and 30’s all I ever did was push my body to its limits. I seem to get a sick kick out of it (which many fitness freaks probably understand). I would be in the gym working out day in day out, never taking a rest day. I refused to be labelled “lazy” or “tired.” No way, I was a machine that just kept on going and going. I learnt to run on empty — as it seemed like the right thing to do. So I was forever eating less and doing more. It became a cycle that left me feeling rundown, often sick and walking around in a haze of confusion. I wouldn’t say I liked this but didn’t know a way out. I didn’t want to undo all the hard work I spent days, months and years developing. Yet, every rep, meal, and exercise helped me reach my goals. Like most people, I wanted to get there faster and wasn’t going to let a little rest day get in my way. I wasn’t getting great results from doing this. It took many years to change and stop expecting to develop the body I wanted from doing the same thing repeatedly (that wasn’t working at all). Rest turned itself around from laziness to recuperation. Resting is now a momentous event that has to take place in my 40’s.
The effects of constantly running yourself into the ground
What happens when we don’t allow our bodies to rest and repair from constant exercise.
Here are some, to name a few symptoms to look out for
- Cravings and constant hunger
- Mood swings
- Obsessive exercise behaviour
- Weakness and lethargy
It’s not only our bodies that suffer, but our mental health can take a beating from lack of rest. We tend to make poor decisions and unfortunately say the wrong things to our loved ones and perhaps our colleague’s. That leaves us open to scrutiny and distaste — but an inherent feeling of guilt on our part. If you have been sleeping deprived in your life, this feeling is very similar.
What happens when we don’t rest?
Mental and physical exertion will surely result & decrease your quality of life. Depletion of glycogen stores in the muscle will take place. Lack of rest triggers our bodies to use proteins for energy, so less is leftover to help our muscles grow and repair. After a while, you put yourself in a position to become injured, possibly seeing you in a forced rest state for recovery. When this happens, your mental state can and probably will start to diminish. Those feel-good hormones we get from exercise are amiss, we start craving them, and it develops into obsession.
The best way to recover
One drastic measure many weight lifters tend to make is to stop weight training for one whole week. Taking one week off every 12 weeks allows your muscles, tendons and ligaments to repair themselves, increase glycogen stores in the muscle and liver, and hormone levels to become a lot more balanced. People might think about losing that hard-earned muscle, or worst — gaining weight! Don’t worry about that too much. It usually takes 1–2 months of complete non-activity to lose muscle accumulation and strength. So it won’t mess with your body fat either — unless you decide to overeat processed junk food during this time. A week without the stress of making time for training, battling other people for the squat wrack and being constantly sore will do wonders for your mental health. You will feel a lot sharper, enthusiastic and ready to take on your workout goals with full force when you get started again. Remember this next time you decide not to take a rest day — you will do more harm to your body and mind if you overtrain than when you take some much needed time off. I’m sure by now, most of you will be pretty familiar with the lack of training due to lockdowns. That should have become your biggest lesson in patience. So, put an end to tormenting your body and nervous system. Laziness is doing nothing; taking a break is a recovery phase, with limited activity. No one says you have to lay on the couch all day. Just take a break from the usual slaughtering you love putting your body through. There is plenty of time to get back into it when the week comes to an end.
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