September 2, 2021
Rest – It’s part of the program!
When it comes to health, fitness, weight loss, and eating clean, the industry is saturated with ‘all or nothing’ mentality pushers. You may have seen hashtags like “team no days off”, “no pain no gain”, “gym rat”, “work hard train harder”, etc., or posts talking about how tired someone was from only getting three hours of sleep the previous night but they decided to “push through” their heavy lifting workout anyway. The mentality and support for this kind of attitude is wide spread, but is it really helping to build a strong, healthy body and mind? While the dedication and focus driving the people who create these posts is nothing to be scoffed at, it is important to take a step back and question the long-term efficacy and overall health of this kind of mentality.
When you think about other goals you have in your day-to-day life, whether it be family, business, financial or anything in between, do you hold yourself accountable to that same 110% every second of every day standard? Or do you inclulde some planned rest/relaxation/fun? If you don’t include those rest and relaxation days, this is your sign to start! If you do, it’s time to check-in with yourself and ensure you’re maximizing your relaxation benefits. Let’s dig in to the importance of rest and recovery…
- Balancing Blood Sugar
When you’re sleep deprived, your cortisol (AKA the stress-response hormone) rises. This rise in cortisol mimics the effect of the blood-sugar roller coaster – you know, when you eat highly processed foods and drinks, get filled with energy (the sugar high), then crash and burn and reach for more of the same foods to catch that high again. Even though you may not be on that blood sugar roller coaster from your food, your body will react with the same stress response when you are sleep deprived. The harmful effects of the blood-sugar roller coaster can include weight gain, insulin resistance, heart attacks, high blood pressure, depression, osteoporosis, decreased immune function, and more. As you can see, catching enough Zzz’s will help you maintain a healthy lifestyle, and negelecting your sleep has a negative chain reaction that starts small and builds up to big, difficult to tackle health problems.
- The Science Behind Rest Days
Recovery is necessary for tissue repair. Vigorous exercise puts stress on your body and damages muscle tissue – which is what we’re aiming for when we exercise. If we don’t allow those muscle tissues to repair (AKA build strength), we do more harm than good. If you continue to work the same muscles over and over again day in and day out, your body is in a constant state of stress (re: cortisol mentioned above) which will eventually transition into over-training. Once you’ve found yourself in an over-trained state you are much more likely to become injured and build imbalances within your mobility and strength causing not only your workouts to become less effective, but your daily movements (walking, grocery shopping, standing, etc.) to become uncomfortable and bothersome.
- Rest In Relation To Mental Health
The body is not the only thing that needs time off to rest and recover – your mind does, too. When everyday revolves around your full-time job, fitting in and crushing your workout, family/friends/social life responsibilities, cleaning, grocery shopping/cooking, laundry, planning your next vacay, budgeting for your next big investment, etc., you might not realize it, but your stress levels are high. While this may seem normal, that doesn’t mean your overall stress level isn’t constantly creeping higher and higher. Fun fact: your mind cannot tell the difference between the stress you experience when being chased by a bear or the stress from being stuck in traffic when trying to get to your next meeting on time. The same stress hormone is released, and your body reacts the same way: blood is redirected from your digestive tract to your extremities to prepare you for fight or flight. Your mind reverts to it’s basic survival programming (AKA your lizard brain) taking you out of your prefrontal cortex (the part of the brain that promotes mindfulness, learning new things, and building new habits) and rational problem solving becomes incredibly difficult to act on . Give your mind a break from stress, and you’ll be impressed with how much better you’re able to focus and perform when you get back into “work mode”. Try reading, meditating, turning off your phone/not checking email or social media for a day, getting out in nature, 0r doing something you ENJOY.
- Strength In Sleep
It’s simple, rest = muscle gains. Fitness improvements happen after your workout while resting, not during. When we sleep our body goes through a HUGE shift in what’s a priority. Yes, our brian cycles through REM and nREM (which itself has three stages) helping our brains to rest and recover from the millions of actions it controls consciously and subconsciously every day. What you may not know, is that when we get a full night of recovery sleep (uninterrupted and deep sleep) our body redirects energy normally put towards keeping our digestion moving and our basic body functions (muscle activation for sitting, standing, walking, typing, reading, etc.) to repair and recover of all the cells that make up our body, including your muscles. Without sleep, our body cannot detox, cleanse, or repair. Sleep is where true strength is gained, and without it you cannot hope to progress toward your goals.
- Attitude and Gratitude
Ever heard the phrase “absence makes the heart grow fonder”? Well, it’s true. Think about it- when you take a break from certain genre of book you like to read, a specific meal you may have eaten 3,000 times, or even family (no judgement), you tend to enjoy it more when you encounter it again. Taking a day off from working out can help you notice and miss all the benefits your normally take for granted- endorphins, mental clarity, pushing yourself physically, or mental PR’s in keeping yourself motivated, enjoying the energy a certain song provides for you, maybe even seeing your gym crush! Think of your time off as rebooting your computer- if you don’t do it regularly, you’re bound to have performance issue and cause your processor to slow down and glitch.
- Turn Off, Tune In, & Level Up
Taking a rest-day might cause anxiety in many people who consider themselves habitual movers. Think of a rest-day as just another page in your training manual. Yes, you might be moving slower or not pushing yourself and hard as physically possible… and that’s the whole point. Your rest day can be condisdered meditation for your body: learning to be still and getting comfortable in stillness when we’re all so used to being stimulated around the clock can be uncomfortable… but so is adding an extra 20lbs of weight to your squat, and you have no trouble pushing through that discomfort. Learning to be still, calm, and relaxed is only going to benefit you long-term, and if you struggle with keeping your rest days restful, try and reframe the idea of rest as a new challenge to master in order to progress to your healthiest self yet!
In conclusion, it’s not just important to rest– it’s crucial to both your mental and physical health. With allowing ourselves proper time to rest our body, we allow our muscles to build and recover. With allowing ourselves proper time to rest our mind, we allow our brains to be calm and dedicate focus on what is truly important for our goals. With allowing ourselves proper time to eat and digest our nutrients, we allow our bodies to breakdown and assimilate nutrients in a way that eases digestion, aids our bodies natural detoxification process, and supports our physical recovery from strenuous exercise. With allowing ourselves proper time to sleep restfully through the night, we allow not only our brain to sift through new information and upgrade it’s wiring, we also allow our body to FULLY recover from any physical stress we’ve experienced– be it stress from work or stress from a workout, as well as completing our bodies natural 24-hour detox cycle.
Without recovery, we cannot grow. So remember:
REST! It’s part of the program!