It seems like a logical thing to do…listening to yourself. Who else would you possibly take advice from? If your body tells you to take a rest day, the answer is simple: do it!
On the other hand, there are about a zillion other factors that can interfere with this line of thinking. Here are just a few of them:
1. Fear. Sometimes if I’m on a roll, and have gotten into a consistent routine, changing the plan and “splurging” on an unplanned day of inactivity can stress me out.
2. Indecision. While I can usually read the clues my body is giving me loud and clear, I can’t help but question them when they point to a day off. Am I being lazy? Or intuitive?
3. Rationality. It can feel a little too abstract to just “feel” my body needs a day off. So without a compelling, concrete reason, the right side of my brain tends to protest.
None of this seems all that Earth-shattering. After all, what’s missing one day of working out, and whether you hit up the gym or grab some couch, the ramifications can’t possibly be that severe, right? Maybe not.
A majority of the time, when your body needs a rest enough for you to sense that fact, it’s with good reason. Overworking your body can lead to…
-Burning out: At the least dangerous end of the spectrum, boredom is something that can easily accompany too many trips to the gym. In this case, you might not need to take the day completely off, but instead, find an unusual workout alternative, like swimming, riding your bike, hiking, taking the dog for an extra long walk, a workout DVD or a Yoga class. Sometimes, nothing renews my interest in hitting the gym more than taking some time away from it.
-Pulled Muscles: There are times when you’re in a class, or lifting weights, or running … and you’re pushing your limits, (which is of course necessary in order to improve strength and endurance) adrenaline can take over, which makes pain bearable or even encouraging (a sign of how hard you’re working). Pushing through this kind of pain thoughtlessly, however, can cause a tear or pull, especially if the muscles are already fatigued from previous workouts and not enough time to rest in between. Additionally, if you aren’t really feeling the workout in the first place, you might not take the proper amount of time at the beginning to warm up, stretch and ease into the workout – all precautions that can help prevent this kind of mishap.
-More severe injuries: While pulled muscles are a drag, it could definitely get a lot worse. When the body is fatigued, all sorts of missteps can take place simply due to lack of attention to what you’re doing. Prime examples in my life include BOTH of my sprained ankles! The first time, I went running after a long weekend in Vegas, even though I KNEW I hadn’t slept much and my body was fatigued. In Wisconsin, my mind AND body knew that it had already been a long day … but I ignored the signals and pushed forward. Just a simple stumble or trip can lead to a sprained ankle, broken bones or worse.
This is a great article from Women’s Health Magazine that outlines various injuries, how they commonly occur and suggestions for rehabbing them!
-Illness: Moderate amounts of exercise is a great booster for your immune system. There is research being uncovered, however, that shows that consistently intense exercise can lead to a drop in your body’s ability to fight infection because of certain hormones that are produced at those times. Taking rest days, however, can allow the body to recover and build immunity back up.
The point is, that while guilt and momentary feelings of wimpiness are not fun feelings, they are most likely not nearly as bad as what could possibly happen if you don’t trust your body. Only you can determine how you really feel, and knowing yourself well enough to be honest can be rewarding! You definitely don’t need to justify or explain rest days to yourself or anyone else. Take one as needed and revel in your heightened metabolism from the last workout you did!