If you ask my coach, I am the absolute last person on the planet to extoll the virtues of “rest” in an exercise program.
He is constantly reminding me that a rest day means a rest day and yes that might even mean sitting on the couch all day eating potato chips and drinking beer and watching football. Despite my like of all those things — well maybe not potato chips but I can put a mean hurting on tortilla chips and guac — it is extremely difficult to imagine sloth and gluttony as beneficial to my training.
I hate rest days.
It would be fair to say that there might or might not have been maybe times where training called for rest and still I did a few pushups or sit-ups or dead hangs or ran a bit with the dog or did kick-my-ass yoga or 20minutes on the bike really doesn’t count as exercise does it? I was just warming up my muscles to stretch… I swear.
On those dreaded days, I get all restless and twitchy and want to do the things that I love — more for my mind than necessarily for my body.
A long winter’s rest…
I very nearly had a little bit of a breakdown when I was put on coach-mandated 2 months of rest at the end of last year. Two blessed months?! Are you kidding me?! If I could stick to it, thought I would come out of those months like a little weakling or perhaps jabba the hut’s long-lost sister.
Two months of rest was one of the hardest cycles of training I have been through.
I didn’t sit on the couch, no. I was still allowed some time in the gym 3 days a week doing a very few of the things. No Challenges, no races, and no heavy lifting for me. It was brutal. I felt lethargic and weak and like a major part of myself was slipping away. I was restless and twitchy and yet felt doughy and oh so very blah. Jabba-Jo, here she comes.
Rest was mentally and emotionally exhausting.
Physically? My body was so blipping happy.
As much as I hate to admit it, after a series of back-to-back-to-back events through the fall, my body really, really needed the rest. I might have felt like I was loosing everything but in fact my batteries were charging and I came back with renewed energy and spirit. Yes, yes Coach, you’re very smart, now shuddup.
I realize now that my body was on the verge of breaking down. Ok, ok, my body was broken down. If I hadn’t taken some time off, I would have gotten injured or sick or something where I would have HAD to take time off. That, my friends, is far worse. I’ve been there (oh hello stress fracture). A few friends have suffered injuries in the last weeks to remind me that when you play on the edge you are very close to falling into Injury City. I can totally empathize with their desire to “just…” because “I can’t just not do anything.”
The emotional and mental breakdowns are tough, but the physical complete breakdown is far worse.
Yes, yes you can not do anything. And should. Rest — real actual rest — is good for you. Think of it as emotional and mental training. Figure out how to shout down those internal demons who shout that you must work off that beer or have to run those miles to clear your head.
Take rest days to figure out who you are without pushing the hell out of your body.
I know it is hard. Two months remember?! But I came back stronger than before — doing a GORUCK Light with about 4 days notice to kick off my triumphant return (thanks Claire for the photo). I could have used perhaps a few weeks of getting back into the swing before jumping into the arena, but I held my own and am as proud of my GRTL patch as any of my others.
Now, I am back into a physically demanding training schedule. While I did put on a few pounds, I am far from Jabba-Jo. And in the last months I’ve packed on some serious muscle. I’ve finally gotten a strict pull-up — two in a row actually — I can climb a rope, my APFT score is climbing and I PRed my max deadlift on Monday. I don’t think I would have made such gains if I hadn’t taken time off.
Just like physical exercise, the mental and emotional effort it takes to take rest days is worth it.
And when I’m looking at my long list of lifts for the day or have sweat dripping down my face or TRex arms from the day before, I maybe, just might, look forward to those blessed rest days a little. I might still hate them a little as well, but certainly I’ve learned the value of — and take — my full rest days now.
So my friends, while I might be still a young padawan on this one, trust me: Take a few rest days before they take you.