When it comes to fitness, improving our strength and losing weight, our bodies need rest. We have a culture that’s really turned us against that, though. A culture that’s normalized working out 6-7 days a week and made rest feel like a synonym for lazy, or weak, when it is neither of those things.
What if we change the vocabulary. What if our rest day or days weren’t called rest days, but instead recovery time? Recovery as a word celebrates and acknowledges the effort and work we are doing. Instead of insinuating that we are unable to go on, as rest has come to, recovery tends to weave itself in to the fitness route. While rest is seen as separate from our workout routine, a break from it, we see recovery as an integrated part of a workout schedule. Fitness influencers and trainers support this with suggesting stretches, foam rolling and specific nutrition for recovery. It’s part of taking care of your muscles, your cardiovascular system, and your mind.
Now let’s be clear – rest and recovery are the same thing. We aren’t really talking about different processes. We’re talking about two words that can be used to describe varying your schedule, relaxing, caring for your body outside of the gym. However we’ve allowed a culture that pushes us to feel we’ve never done enough to hijack one of these words – rest – and make it feel like a guilty pleasure instead of a key component in our routine.
So maybe in order to move foreword we need to change the vocabulary. We need to remind ourselves that there’s nothing guilty in listening to our bodies and claiming what we need.
A key reason I think this is so important is that when we treat rest as failure we allow it to overwhelm us. If the rest day isn’t built in to the routine – or we feel guilty about taking our rest day since most reputable programs do include at least one rest day – then instead of feeling refreshed we will feel anxious about the time we took to rest.
This is something I encountered this week. Normally Saturdays are a low intensity day for me and Sundays are a complete rest day. However with gyms re-opening and a little extra motivation I worked my ass off all weekend – literally.
Then on Monday – my normal legs and booty day – I hit a wall. Hard.
Okay, I thought, a rest day. Not a problem. I didn’t rest on the weekend so resting now is okay. Not a problem. Let’s do it. It should have been refreshing and energizing. I should have woken up on Tuesday at least sort of excited to step back in to my routine. But I didn’t. I woke up anxious that I wasn’t on my routine and that anxiety was paralyzing.
Did I want to jump in to my regular Tuesday Abs and Cardio? Did I need to double my workout and also get Mondays workout done? What was going on with the fact I really didn’t want to do any of it?
So I didn’t.
Now I went to the gym on the weekend but it wasn’t my gym. Gyms were allowed to reopen as of Friday so I visited a local one that had done so. However my gym opened on Wednesday so that was my first opportunity to get back in familiar territory.
Thankfully that was the push I needed to take a step back in to my week and not let my Monday-Tuesday off stretch towards the rest of the week. But what if it had been a normal Wednesday with no gym reopening to get me motivated?
I’ve been there before – when one day turns to two turns to three turns to a week and then six months and I am totally derailed by a day or a few days of feeling that my rest was a problem and that I’d failed and not knowing how to recover from that failure. While I’m grateful that there were outside forces – an accountability partner and a re-opened gym – to help me find my way this week – it’s really gotten me thinking.
Recovery is so key and listening to your body is a way to avoid catastrophic failure, injury, and burn out. So why don’t we normalize it? Why do we still celebrate stretching over our natural limits to such an extreme level? I know there is a tide of change working to push back but with the virus and everything going on, it can’t come soon enough.