As I wrote in my last post, I'm taking it a tad easier on the workout front for now. It's not super easy for someone who is used to workout everyday, and it would probably be evan harder for someone who works out multiple hours a day (like I used to do years ago).
A lot of times, we can't stop working out or take a break even if we're super tired, if we know our health is suffering from it (in cases of serious overtraining), or for any other reason that actually requires us to take it a bit easier.
Why is taking rest days so freaking hard?
I've been there too. I've worked out when I've been sick, I've put on running shoes and headed out even when I've had a bad hangover and after only 3 hours of sleep, I've worked out when I've been overly sore…
If you know someone who always trains, no matter what, you may admire this person and think his / her dedication is absolutely amazing. And it is. Maybe you're that person?
But not being able to take a rest day when it's really needed, is not necessarily the healthiest thing.
Here are some not so healthy reasons why we sometimes have hard time taking a rest day, and how to make it easier to chillax a bit:
Making up For Food
We don't need to earn our food, we don't need to “make room for it” by training hard before the meal, and we don't have to try to work it off after eating. When I was deep in my binge eating days, that's how my brain worked though: There was no way I did not workout twice as hard as usually after I'd had a big meal or full on binge. Of course I did.
Over time, working out and eating may become so connected to each other, that we may start to feel like we don't deserve to eat if we didn't workout on that day.
That's obsessive. If we feel like we can't take a rest day because otherwise we can't eat (enough), we need to remind ourselves that we still need food and calories to keep our basic body functions working. We need energy for keeping the metabolism going, we need it for moving (also other than exercise), and even if we lay in bed all day, we still need energy. The source for it is food.
For example, a woman about my size needs approximately 1500 calories every day to keep the basic body functions going. I should eat at least 1500 calories also on the days when I don't workout (that's the bare minimum). On the days when I do workout, my energy need is higher.
We should be able to take rest days and not stress about eating. It's okay to eat. It's normal to eat. It's necessary to eat. Eating is not a privilege we can enjoy only on the days we workout.
The Fear of Getting Out of Shape
A break from working out won't harm our fitness level as quickly as we may think. (That's, of course, unless we let that break go too long without any reason).
Besides, rest days are the time when muscles recover and grow. Hard work is done while training, but the actual progress happens when we take a break to let the muscles heal.
It's common to think that the more we workout, the better we get. But more is not always better, smarter is better.
I know runners who have totally overtrained themselves by doing more miles than their training plan told them to do, and who were always afraid to make changes to it because they didn't trust their bodies when they needed rest. They were still pushing hard, and as a result, overtrained. That's true for others too, of course, not just runners.
There's no reason to be afraid of getting out of shape or losing the fitness level when we take (a few) rest day(s) a week. Yes, we should train consistently, that's the most important thing; but at the sane time, rest is crucial part of training too. If we want to get log lasting results, resting is as important as training.
Not Knowing What Else To Do
We may feel a little bit lost when we can't workout. If there's a specific time of the day when we always workout, and now we have extra 30 minutes in hand, we may not know how to fill that gap and what to do with all that time…
Well, when you take a rest day and think that it's going to be really hard to figure out what to do with this 30-60 minutes, then you'll be surprised to realize how quickly this time goes by.
Here are some ideas though, if you don't know what to do with this time:
- Meditate. You can meditate anywhere between 1-60 minutes (even more, but that's just not realistic for most of us). Most of us really need meditating, and I'm convinced that 10 minutes of meditation is better for you than working out one hour when your body is extremely tired. If you feel guilty for not working out, that's what you could focus your meditation to: Letting go of those guilty thoughts and confirming yourself that you'll be perfectly fine if you take a rest day.
- Journal. I haven't gotten my hands on that (yet), but I hear that it does a lot of good to help you calm down and get a bit more zen. Don't know what to write about? You could start by writing down the reasons and feelings about why you feel guilty for not working out.
- Read. An average person can read about 20 pages in 30 minutes, so if we spent 30 minutes of the time we have left from working out on reading, it would take us just 10 days do go through a 200-page book. Simple math!
- Surf the Web. Ok, I didn't have to say that, you knew that already because you're probably doing it quite a bit anyway 🙂 The problem with this one is that you likely end up doing it longer than you would have spent on working out. Set your time limit .
- Stretch. Stretching gets often overlooked, as the number 1 priority is, for most of us, to get the workout done. On a rest day, you can still stretch, and if being totally motionless is as hard for you as it is for me, it makes you feel a bit better because you can still move your body a bit.
I totally understand that it may be hard to take rest days, but I think it's not healthy to be so attached to anything that we absolutely lose our minds when we can't do that thing–even if it's something as healthy as working out.
Also working out can turn into obsession and become a very unhealthy habit, if we never take a break from it.
Do you feel that it's hard to take a break from working out? Does it ever make you feel guilty?