Rest; How Taking Time Off Can Make You Stronger
I suck at recovery… or so I’ve been told more than once by more than one person. There was a day a couple of years ago when a coworker (he happens to be a health coach and former professional football player) literally blocked my exit as I was dragging myself to another evening workout and pretty much insisted that I take a day or two off.
“You’ve got to learn to listen to your body,” he said.
I was then treated to one of his long lectures on health, the importance of proper nutrition and yes, rest.
Intellectually I know that giving the body time to repair itself is an essential part of any fitness training plan. By not allowing myself proper rest and recovery, I’m not only minimizing my performance gains, but may also be putting my health at risk.
And yet, somehow I still cling to the irrational notion that if I take a day or two off I’ll lose everything I’ve worked so hard to achieve. In my mind anything less than full effort is the equivalent of failure, and a work week filled with evening meetings and responsibilities that force alterations to my normal regimen can be quite anxiety producing.
Recently, though, I was blessed to be able to take a week off and go to the Caribbean with my family. Before I left I gave myself permission to take a time out and just relax, and so I did.
In addition to giving my body a much needed break, I found that I benefitted in other ways as well:
- I had time to read; I learned and was inspired.
- I discovered a renewed creativity; I envisioned new projects and dreamed new dreams.
- I reconnected with my family in an intimate way that daily life simply doesn’t allow.
- I danced; I tried new water sports and played games; I laughed.
- I had time to walk, to think and to reflect.
- I got back on track with my nutrition plan – well sort of – chips, soda and chocolate were not available, but fish and fruits were plentiful… so were rum punches and pina coladas…
- I also learned that spa treatments aren’t always all they are claim to be; apparently, getting slathered and wrapped in mango makes you irresistible to biting insects…
- I returned with a few mosquito bites, but also a new level of energy and got right back into my training schedule. I find that I have more endurance and don’t tire as easily.
The rest has not only made me stronger, but also more balanced, and well …., sane.
A Caribbean vacation might be one of those “once in a lifetime” things, but building in adequate recovery time (and yes, “adequate time” is one of those things that increases as we age) is an essential part of any fitness regimen.
Regular rest days, massages, foam rolling, stretching and mixing up my routine (a leisurely bike ride instead of a hard run) are all ways that I plan to take care of myself so that I can perform my best at my next adventure.
I just signed up for a half marathon through trails that include streams and varying terrain at the end of September. I can’t wait! Time to go stretch and massage my feet before tomorrow’s run.
Karen Adler is…
An educator by trade, runner, hiker and adventure-seeking fitness enthusiast by passion. She explores what it means to be fit after fifty along with the multiple joys and trials that come with age. She is truly an Athlete On Fire!