Updated: Jul 18, 2020
After all this talk about exercise recommendations I’m exhausted. It starts to become overwhelming after all the planning and coordinating to meet all the guidelines and recommendations. Trust me, I’m in the same boat as all of you. Stuck trying to balance a busy work schedule, clean eating, exercise, a social life, getting enough sleep and still doing some of the things I enjoy (recently that includes reading tales about the revolutionary war and crocheting as I am a 90 year old at heart). It really starts to make your head spin.
But I’m here to remind you about balance. Rest is just as important as the lengthy to-do list sitting in front of you. Being sure to include rest to your exercise routine will help your recovery in order to grow and build progress. This is especially true in terms of exercise. The reason for this, is in order to make improvements in any of the exercise domains your muscles experience microtrauma (small tears in the muscles) creating a recovery response throughout the body. Shocking, I know. I was too. This damage from your workout tells your brain to send materials and cells to repair that damage better than ever in response to the stress put on the body. This way it is ready to take on that activity again with greater ease. Cool right? Your body automatically gears you up to get better each time. This is why exercise is so beneficial. However, the repair process requires rest to be most efficient.
Providing the body with rest can be done in several ways. The first is easy. Take a day off. Constant stress on the body, whether it’s physical, mental or otherwise, is harmful. The body needs time to devote to repair and recovery. This can be maximized by a full day of rest after several days of damage through exercise.
The second is a little more fun. Cross training is another tool athletes will use to rest the body while still working toward their fitness goals. This is the act of using different forms of activity to achieve the same goal. It is a beneficial strategy for rest as it encourages blood circulation to clean out debris from damage done by previous exercise and bring new chemicals for repair. Cross training through another form of exercise or to a different muscle group works on one part of the body while resting another. For example, alternating strength and cardio days can be a form of cross training. Another example would be training different muscle groups, different days of the week. Some will designate certain days of the week for legs, certain days of the week for arms and so on. Adding a cycling day in place of your typical cardio routine is another more classic example. Any form of variety to your routine will rest one area and promote circulation for repair while using another.
Giving a specific movement or muscle group a chance to rest will ultimately supply the body time needed to nourish and rebuild any damage that occurred while performing a workout. Use this tool to organize your routine when you’re feeling stressed or overwhelmed. Know that exercise is paired well with rest and it is okay to take a day off or mix things up. Make sure you have time to clear your mind, get enough hours of sleep and build in rest days so your body is able to repair damage that occurs throughout the day. This will add sustainability to your routine. The sweet spot between work and rest is where you’ll find balance and allow you to keep moving forward.