Rest is Not a Dirty Word

What is it about the word rest that makes us women recoil in horror?

Having a holiday or a day off work is no problem at all; the more the merrier in fact! However, when, like now, I am being made to rest and recover it’s the last thing I want to do, I’m bored in minutes, restless (ironic wording) can’t get comfy, fidgety and pretty moody because I can’t do what I want to do. Does anybody else get that? I can lie on a beach for hours on end, I know that I am resting and I can feel all the benefits of it, but if it’s not my choice, yuck get me back to work and workouts!

Us active peeps tend to feel this way, tend to rush into more exercise, more workouts or that ‘must workout everyday’ mindset, but, do you realise that not incorporating rest can not only stop you from seeing real results from your effort in the gym but also damage your health and your wellbeing? Plus, not allowing yourself to recover from an operation (telling myself this), an injury or an illness can actually set you back even further?

Fresh out of hospital from my operation and on a months-worth of forced rest, a month! No exercise, no swimming, no impact work, no overexertion (and no sex just fyi), it makes me feel itchy just thinking about how unfit and lazy I’m going to feel at the end of a month and I already have itchy feet to get my fitness routine back up and running. However, on meds that make me drowsy and dizzy with my hormones throwing in a few mood swings to keep things fun and interesting, feeling pretty sorry for myself, all the motivation in the world isn’t going to help me get back into it, but resting will.

Seeing as I am quickly becoming best friends with my couch I thought it was an ideal time to look a little deeper into this thing called rest and recovery and see who else out there is guilty of not getting enough.

Being an avid fan of stretching post workout, fitting yoga classes into my weekly schedule and making sure I have complete days off the gym each week,  I kind of thought that I already rest enough. Yet when I looked into the symptoms of lack of rest, it seems I do not. Apparently, having the occasional over tired emotional breakdown, a constantly aching body, regular injuries and if I’m honest with myself, a body that doesn’t perform how I know it can and has previously performed, are pretty massive signs that I do not allow my body and my mind to recover from the things I put it through.

So, how can we be sure that we are giving our bodies what they need to tackle the physical challenges of life and our minds the mental challenges of life (man there are too many of those aren’t there?). I think we are probably all guilty of cramming too many ‘things to do’ into our daily lives, too much pressure on ourselves to get things done, go places, work longer hours, workout more and whatever else we convince ourselves is more important than resting, but if we actually look at the damage to our body, brain and health we would all probably make a little more time for it.

Stress is probably the biggest cause of not reaching your goals in the gym if you’re really giving it your all – we have looked into this before – but a huge thing for body and mind stress is lack of rest.

Overtraining in the gym and not giving yourself rest days from working out will see you overstressed and becoming unhealthy, damaging your fitness goals, and even your relationships. Your body needs time to allow your workouts to take effect, if you don’t allow your body to recover and your head to settle then your stress hormones can wreak havoc through your body.

If you’re trying to build muscle tone or muscle mass then you need to rest your body one to two days a week to allow your muscles the time to rebuild from your tough weights session, it can take a minimum of 48 hours to recover muscles that have worked hard with up to 96 hours of rest before that same muscle group can perform at full capacity again. Yeah, that much rest is what they can need.

It’s not easy to find a balance between how much rest your muscles need to perform well but also maintain the gains you’re working for so leave at least 24-48 hours between same muscle group training. You can’t build muscle without resting, it’s the rest days and your sleeping time that boosts production of growth hormone and allows muscles to rebuild post workout.

For me at the moment it’s not about recovering after a workout, an operation is quite a major trauma on the body and lots of things need to recover after that. Wounds need to heal properly and to do that your skin and your blood cells need to work together, essential vitamins needed for skin repair will also increase during a deep sleep and help to heal the body and recover your blood cell count. If you’re resting and recovering from an operation or an injury or an illness then you know your recovery is important and your rest time may be longer than you’d like but doing too much too soon - which is pretty typical of us active peeps, could end up pushing you further away from your goals and in need of a whole lot more recuperation than you’d like.

A fellow fitfam friend of mine has recently had a baby and was keen and eager to get back in the gym and lose the baby weight and get back to her usually active self. Having lost several kilos of baby and water weight in a day or so, she suddenly felt so light on her feet and jumped, literally, straight into power walking with the pram, jogging, heavy squat training etc. How do you think this ended? Yes, back at the doctors with a prolapse (down there) and a further 6 week ban on exercise! Additional rest time when looking after a newborn is not a stress you need added to that crazy time anyway. So, the lesson, always take the rest time your body needs, it will be worth it in the end.

What if you’re not recovering from an operation and the likes, how can you make sure you are still recovering right?

Post workout stretching has been my mantra ever since I was a teenager, it is literally awesome or you. If you don’t hang around for even a 10 minute stretch after a big gym session then you need to start scheduling it in now! You know those days when your legs hurt so much that stairs make you want to cry, or you have to place your hands on the wall to help you drop down onto the toilet seat, or when washing your hair is physically impossible because you can’t lift your arms higher?

Not only should you invest in some lifesaving dry shampoo but you should stretch post workout and reduce those pain levels for the next day. Delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS) can last up to 72 hours post workout but if you stretch and elongate the muscle, allow the bloodstream to get into those hard working muscle sand remove the waste products and deliver the vital nutrients like potassium and protein that your muscles need to recover you can reduce the effects of DOMS and continue with your day to day life without walking like you have had an accident in your pants.

It’s also pretty essential for your muscle tone goals too, ensuring that you decrease the build-up of waste product crystals in the muscles that can lead to pain and injury and reduced range of motion, keep yourself moving freely and seeing great results with short stretching sessions, holding each move for about 30seconds, focus on the muscles that you have predominantly worked during your session and you’ll soon discover a few favourites that make you feel great all over to throw into each session too.

The biggest thing, don’t convince yourself that you’re being lazy for taking a rest day, change your mind set to realising just how important these recovery times are, it’s part of the process, it’s the right thing to have in your workout schedule each week so you are doing the best thing for your fitness goals this way.

Active people can be the hardest people to convince to take time off, the rest up but it’s usually those people who need it the most. Do yourself the favour, have the perfect workout schedule and put an active rest day, like swimming or walking into your week and then a full on rest day where you do not even think about exercise, you just know that it’s the best way to see your goals when you want to see them. Yes, sitting on the sofa for a little Netflix binge could get you that butt you dream of in your booty building sessions, sign me up!


Geraldine xo