When I first started getting serious about exercise I worked out everyday, as much as I could find time for. When I began to see changes in my body I was hooked. But eventually this changes slowed and I hit a plateau. I tried everything I could think of; new exercises, more intensity, longer stretching: what could be the problem?
I had read something about the importance of rest but thought that it was about “all things in moderation” and not about progress. How would I see results by resting?! But out of ideas and fed up I started incorperating rest days into my routine.
Lo and behold I busted through my platoue by sitting the heck down. I learned that when you lift weights or perform vigorous exercise tiny tears form in your muscles. When you allow them adequate rest they heal by enlarging your muscles. I hadn’t been seeing the changes because I hadn’t given my body the rest I needed to change!
To be honest — I still don’t like rest days. I love to sweat first thing in the morning. It sets the tone for the rest of my day. But every once in awhile, if I’m not getting enough rest my body reminds me. Recently it was in a big way.
A few weeks ago I was taking care of a sick two-year-old and got sick myself. And not just any ol sick, but knock down- drag out, feeling like a mere shell of myself sick. I had to rest. Hell, I had to sit as still as possible and speak softly. I was a mess.
You may think it odd, but I missed exercise. Not in a “oh no now I’m going to gain 20lbs” obsessive way, but in a “I’ll sure be happy when I can get back” way. I missed getting up early, trekking my way to the gym and pushing myself. It makes me feel strong. And anyone who’s ever had a 2 year old knows you need to feel strong. :)
But rest I did.
I now think my body needed the rest. I don’t remember the last time I was this sick, but I used to get sick like that on a very regular basis. When I was in college, unhealthy and depressed I visited the emergency room at least once a year. Now I rarely get even a cough. But lately I’ve been stretching myself a little too thin and not giving myself enough rest. So my body said “Excuse me sit the h down…”
After feeling better it took several days to get back to the workout intensity I prefer. I had to take it slow, listen to my body and gradually make my way back. In my quest to juggle a few too many tasks I had forgotten the cardinal rule of taking care of myself: I wasn’t listening to my body at all. I was plowing forward without pausing to see how things felt, to check in with me.
After a full weeks rest and another week of low impact workouts I have more muscle definition than I’ve ever seen. I feel stronger, run faster and lift heavier weights. Again I needed to adequately rest to allow the benefits of exercise to set in.
Thank you body/God/universe what-have-you for reminding me that rest is as important as work. And for you, please take your rest seriously and listen to your body and what it needs — it keeps you strong and off the sidelines.