Wednesday, November 4, 2015

Easy Does It

I tend to include quotes in my writing, both here on this blog and periodically at work. Why? Because sometimes you read a quote so good that it's worth sharing! And sometimes others write the words or thoughts that you only wish you could so eloquently say. I try to keep the quotes I share brief, but this one was so good, and so relevant, that it had to be shared here:

"Every person needs to take one day away. A day in which one consciously separates the past from the future. Jobs, family, employers, and friends can exist one day without any one of us, and if our egos permits us to confess, they could exist eternally in our absence. Each person deserves a day away in which no problems are confronted; no solutions searched for. Each of us needs to withdraw from the cares which will not withdraw from us." -- Maya Angelou

Like most people, I have a tendency to overdo it. Training is no different - I typically apply an "all or nothing" mentality which usually leads to me being disappointed when I fail and giving up before I even begin. Ugh. Surprisingly, I have not given up in 2015. I have had my share of setbacks and disappointments, mind you, but I've used them to motivate me to continue and resume my training. It's been a pretty stellar fitness year so far, but there is still one area that I can improve...

REST! Yes, I said rest! When I began training this summer, I read several blogs and articles regarding half marathon training. Every-single-one included only 3-4 running days per week; most included 3 running days and 1 walking day. And they all included at least one "rest" day. Why?

Running is a high impact sport. Without proper training, you can easily injure yourself. I should know - my running addiction in college led to two knee injuries and multiple muscle sprains. There are multiple benefits to including rest days to your training schedule, though, including:
  • Joint Recovery: All that pounding your joints take when you run isn't good in the long run. A rest day helps reduce inflammation, allowing your body to repair itself while preventing stress fractures and joint degeneration.
  • Muscle Recovery: Like your joints, your muscles tend to work overtime when you run, breaking down muscle fibers and swelling. Allowing your muscles a day or two of rest during the week gives them time to repair the muscle fibers torn while exercising. When your muscles repair themselves, they become stronger! Whether you're lifting weights or running, these are the types of gains you want to see. Stronger muscles mean better/more efficient running. Don't neglect this!
  • Overtraining: Yes, it's possible that too much running or strength training is not a good thing. Overtraining causes all sorts of stress on your body - it can cause sleeplessness, irritability, dehydration... not to mention it puts you at risk of injury (shin splints, stress fractures, etc). Your body is a machine, but it's one that requires proper maintenance. Give it a break, and it will last you a long time.
  • Exercise Efficiency: This sort of goes hand-in-hand with overtraining - if you're body doesn't get to recover, it simply won't perform at a high or higher level of performance the next day. It sounds silly, but you do make gains with recovery. Want to run faster or longer? Give your body a break. Your body will thank you!
So... does rest mean lazy? Nope! Rest days don't have to mean that you just lay on the couch eating ice cream while watching bad Lifetime movies (although you totally could). Resting simply means that you give the parts of the body you used the most the day before a break. I like to do my strength training on my running rest days, and keep my runs between my strength training. And on Sundays? I eliminate both, and stick to walking my dog. How you use your rest days is up to you - just make sure to give yourself that recovery time.

When you have a history of giving up easily, or making excuses when you should be making gains, it's easy to confuse rest with laziness. It's also difficult (for me, at least) to go back to a routine if I take a few days off from it. To help keep me on track, I've set reminders on my calendar at work and my calendar on my phone to remind me of what I plan to accomplish on any given day from an exercise perspective. What do you do to keep you on track? And how do you make sure to give your body a rest, without losing your gains? 

Tomorrow is my "rest day," aka my day back in the gym for strength training. Friday is long run day! Woot! (maybe...) Hope each of you continues to have a happy and healthy week. Onward and upward.



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