DO YOU TAKE REST DAYS?
You wake to your alarm at 5.30am, exhausted from a sleepless night. The excitement you had once held for movement is waning a little. You’re not sure you want to have to tick this box anymore. But you ‘should’, right? And so you do, and one foot at a time you climb out of bed, grab your clothes off the floor and start to get dressed.
Because it feels like rest is time not spent pursuing your goal. And you ‘should’ work harder than that. Rest means you might gain weight/ have less muscle mass/ be further away from the PB you are after, and you already feel a million miles away.
And then eventually, maybe a few weeks or months down the line, exhaustion gets the better of you. But the relaxing day you had planned feels like anything but because the voice in your head is so loud it is almost too much to handle. So you dive into your phone, you try to keep busy, you eat less, as if you could numb or manage it all a little.
But you get to opt out of that. You do ❤️ Rest is not just important. It’s completely essential.
It can be helpful to start with understanding WHY we need rest; the way that recovering allows us to grow. And then to question our own beliefs we have around it:
+ Where do they come from?
+ Does it help us move TOWARDS our goals, why?
It can help to acknowledge we don’t have to be so black and white about things. Rest doesn’t have to mean lounging on the sofa all day, although it also could, but it could also be a gentle yoga practice or a walk.
And we might feel discomfort - especially when rest is something we aren’t used to allowing ourselves - but the less we react to the habitual voice in our head, the weaker that pathway becomes.
Frequently asked questions:
+ What do you do on your rest days/ how often do you take rest days? How many should I take a week?
The answer to this is hugely individual. Rest days are not good or bad - they are needed to recover from training, they are simply days when you have chosen not to exercise - great!
And in that way the amount of rest you take depends on how often you train. How often you train will depend on things like your goals, how early you are in your fitness journey (typically, beginners ‘need’ to do less work), how much time you have, your enjoyment of exercise etc.
+ Do you do yoga on a rest day?
Mainly yes. Sometimes no. I have spoken before about how I do yoga for my mental wellbeing. And so, for me, it’s a huge priority.
Yoga also can help recovery in that consciously slowing down and breath (e.g. Ujjayi breathing, breath synched with movement, or breath matched with those around you in class) help to regulate the nervous system.
A few caveats and a few questions to ask yourself:
+ A hot/faced paced, strong yoga class is most likely not going to help you recover from other exercise if you only have one rest day and that is how you choose to spend it.
+ What does your other training look like? If you are training very intensely you might need a full day off anything but a super slow practice.
+ If you want to rest, REST. There is no right/wrong way to do this.
+ If you cannot take a day off, you may need to work on permission to do nothing at all.
+ This is SUPPOSED to flexible (pun intended) - yoga is about better tuning into yourself - if you need a full day off take one.
+ What about feeling guilty for unplanned rest days because of life events/fatigue?
Remember that for the most part this is a drop in the ocean. If you usually workout super consistently but had to take 1-2 weeks away from your usual plans because you were ill/ due to an event in life it will not make a difference.
If fatigue is happening more frequently there might be a few things you want to consider:
+ Do you plan deloads? (I can talk more on this another time, but loosely: breaks/reductions in training to facilitate recovery)
+ Are you overtraining?
+ Have you anything underlying you might need to see your GP about?
+ Are you stressed? (Training stress and emotional/work stress pour into the same bucket)
P.s. Exercise is supposed to enhance your life. Not put constraints upon it.
+ How to change mindset and not under eat on a rest day?
Your body needs energy for MUCH more than exercise. It needs energy literally just to lie there and do nothing at all. You do not have to ‘earn’ the right to eat. That is kindness, self care, NEEDED.
It can be helpful to think of a small child or a close friend. Would you tell them they need to earn the right to eat? To a basic human need?
Perhaps we also need to think about why we exercise.
If exercise is about enjoyment, performance, getting stronger: then we need the fuel that. And that means fuelling recovery too.