Making Rest A Priority
In four years of college athletics. I can count the number of times I jumped into a pool in the five day break we had over the holidays before training trip...on one hand (Sorry Coach).
For many college athletes, this time of year is defined by training. Not rest. Most of us like to do this thing called, "give it your all, 150% of the time". And I think most of my teammates over the years, be it in USA Club team or College, would feel that a day off, felt more like a "punishment".
Don't get me wrong, in terms of training, I'm aware of the importance of making the most of the days without schoolwork and other distractions in order to make strides in physical and mental preparation for sport. Build up your aerobic base, focus on maintaining power, and endurance, while maintaining muscular flexibility, injury prevention. However, sport burnout taught me the only way to make it work was to take a portion of this time to rest.
Mentally, the only way to move forward over the next five weeks of grueling practices, competitions, and little sleep, for me, was to set aside time to not be physically active.
Yet, I would get back to campus, and on that first afternoon back on deck, guilt trickled in when hearing;
Coach: "How did those workouts go?"
....And then came the mental "rationalizing". "Well I shoveled a bunch of snow one day...I also did some hiking...went on a bunch of walks outside...used my resistance bands...ab workouts happened...did a short lift..."
Little did I know this was the beginning of finding out what it meant to move intuitively versus "by the books".
I counted the days until I could have those five non-prescriptive days of movement because I felt that it actually helped to provide a psychological reset and refocus. This period of intuitive or sometimes seen as "unconventional" movement, let me become more attuned to my body and what it required in order to be at my best.
Here enters Intuitive Movement.
Intuitive movement is focuses on body connection and the body's internal cues in order to determine what type of movement, how long, and the intensity you'd like to engage in. The practice incorporates mindfulness, and joy, and a focus on being present in whatever movement you choose to do. In learning this process you'll nurture a healthier relationship with movement and your body, and an effective way to utilize rest days.
So how do you transition to practicing Intuitive Movement? How do you make rest days a piece of the puzzle.
Learning that one of the biggest keys to successful, training and life is to learn and understand how to read your body, and how to be honest with your body, trusting the process was probably one of the biggest lessons that college athletics taught me.
So what can rest bring to you? In terms of nourishment, mental status, and physical healing?
Muscular recovery and injury prevention, refocused mental attention, improved sleep.
For the body to undergo appropriate muscular recovery and building for strength, it requires fuel, mainly from glucose. Since the body is only able to synthesize glycogen at around 5% an hour, it takes around 24 hours to prime the muscles for the next workout. Glycogen, being the storage form of glucose, needs to be replenished constantly, even on rest days. This fuel is stored in the muscles, and liver cells.
And since the muscles you’re working hard to constantly grow and repair, they don’t stop utilizing fuel just because you’re resting. Constant replenishing, benefits from consistent rest.
Athletes often assume that they need to fuel less on rest days since they aren't participating in any exercise, however this is not the case. Not fueling properly on a rest day can deter muscle synthesis which is important for both growth in strength and muscle repair. Hydration is also imperative on rest days, maintaining proper balance of fluid and electrolytes will allow for muscles and joints to recover, and body systems (cells) to remain hydrated.
So here is a starting place. Ask yourself, do I really enjoy this activity? Does this bring me joy? Will this activity contribute to positivity in my day, or bring me negativity? How does my body feel? Have I nourished my body adequately today to do XYZ movement? Plan tentatively, and have options!
Rest days look a little different now then they did in college, and that's okay.
Whether it be working, or taking classes, everyone needs days of rest, in order to re-center energy and keep perspectives fresh. Sometimes rest is planned, and other times it's not. So take a break for yourself. Remove social media, or electronics from the picture. Do something fun, not work/school related. If that means movement, awesome! Go enjoy it! Nourish your body in a way that makes you happy and content.
How do you feel about rest days? Can you make them a priority?
Image Credit: Lara Bar