Rest; What is it Good for?

Any of ya’ll ever seem to find it difficult to simply allow yourself permission to stop and rest?  I know that this area for me is often times a struggle.  Don’t get me wrong; I thoroughly enjoy a day in which I declare it’s a “pjs all day” type of day.  A day which entails nothing but comfy clothing, top knots, and lounging.  However, it is inevitable that after a few hours of taking it easy–whatever that may look like, I grow antsy and inevitably feel guilty for resting.  Anyone else?  Or, am I a lone ranger in this feeling?
While we may have this feeling (slight twinge of guilt) regarding the rest day, there are significant benefits to ensuring you’re allowing yourself: physical, emotional, and spiritual time to rest and recover.  There are many factors regarding the rest day, however, there are about four key factors I’d like to address: Injury Prevention, Muscle Recovery, Performance, and Mental Tenacity & Emotional Well-being.
Injury Prevention:
The key to any solid training regime is to ensure your injuries or potential to become injured is lessened.  One cannot train properly when suffering from an injury.  A bodybuilder cannot lift heavy weights to grow solid delts if the shoulder has a tear that goes untreated.  A marathon runner cannot put in the proper amount of training miles if he/she has a tight hamstring or possibly strained IT band.  Rest is crucial for ensuring you are not overusing or over training the body or specific muscle groups.  Overuse of the muscle or the body results in less effective training and ultimately higher risk of injury.  When you’re injured that could sideline you for weeks as opposed to the one rest day.
Muscle Recovery:
If you have been lifting weights for strength training then this may have been (or hopefully it was) one of the initial “rules of thumb” you were taught: give the muscles rest.  When you’re lifting weights essentially you’re tearing apart the muscle fibers, in hopes, when they repair they’ll repair tighter and more dense–thus a rounder muscle belly and the ability to lift heavier the next time you pick up the weights.  However, if you don’t allow for enough recovery time between weight sessions you’re working against yourself as the muscles you’re trying to grow, strengthen, tighten, or tone are not being given ample time to heal before they’re torn apart again.  Ex: a bodybuilder wouldn’t lift the same muscle group on back to back days because he/she knows they need to allow their body the ability to repair itself to reap the benefit of their lift.
Repeat after me: not all will be lost during my rest day.  Did you do it? Yes? Good. No?  Go on….I can wait…excellent!  I think that often times our thinking may be a bit warped into thinking if we aren’t in the gym 7 days/week then somehow our bodies won’t be where or what we want them to be.  If we aren’t drenched in sweat every single day then somehow we are slacking and won’t achieve our goals by the deadline we have set.  I know I have had those thoughts at times–especially when training for a figure competition.  Take a deep breath; all the hard work you’ve already put into achieving your health and fitness goals will not be lost during your rest day. Shoot, even God himself gave himself a rest day after creating the world.  (Yes, I believe in creation and God did it in 7 days. Don’t like that…well, sorry not sure what to tell ya–faith is in the title of the blog.)  If anything, allowing your body the necessary recovery it desires can often times ensure an even better workout the day following the rest day.  You may be surprised on being able to turn the dial that much higher during your spin class, keep up with the instructor during that HIIT (High Intensity Interval Training) workout, make a PR on your leg day, or have one amazing run following a day of solid rest.
Additionally, did you know over training can affect your body’s ability to get a good night’s sleep?  When you over train or engage in a lot of aerobic activity, your parasympathetic nervous system (sometimes referred to as the “rest and digestive” system–in charge of items such as: slowing the heart rate, increase intenstinal and glandular activities, and relax the sphincter–sorry) is sent into hyper drive and never allowed the opportunity to slow down thus affecting your sleep pattern.  Without proper sleep, your hard work towards losing body fat or building lean muscle tissue will be that much more difficult.
Mental Tenacity & Emotional Well Being:
From the mental and emotional aspect taking a rest day from training can almost re-ignite that fire to push yourself in your training and prevent you from burning out.  There are also other indicators that may reflect you are in need of a rest day to reset the mind–moodiness, fatigue, maybe some “low” days more than what is normal for you.  While yes endorphin hormones are released when engaging in exercise, the hormone cortisol is also released.  Cortisol is a hormone with a great deal of responsibility within the body.  (With great power comes great responsibility.–haha I think that is a Star Wars quote, but I’m not positive.)  If the
body releases too much cortisol when stress levels are increased an individual may be more susceptible to their mental health and emotional health negatively affected.  In individuals whose cortisol levels were higher than normal for extended periods of time, these folks experienced higher occurrences of anxiety, depression, insomnia, rise in blood pressure, etc.  Mental and emotional fatigue can be just as exhausting, and sometimes can feel more exhausting, than physical fatigue.  So, take the rest day.
Overall, we live in a “go go go” society.  A society where if you’re busy then you must be doing something right and if you have the five minutes to stop and smell the roses you’re obviously doing something wrong.  I think we all need to take a page out of the rose smelling group’s book and take the time to fully rest and recover.  We need to give ourselves the permission to take the rest day.  Silence the noise around us and enjoy our rest day–however that may look to our individual journeys–and allow our bodies, minds, and souls the ability to rest and recovery so we can come back with that much more determination to achieve our goals.
Until next time…
“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.” -Mt. 11:28



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