Athletes tend to hate resting. It seems to go directly against meeting performance goals. However much we dislike the idea, we know it is beneficial. The best athletes take breaks, down time, rest days/weeks/months. Rest recharges the body, de-stresses the mind, allows for healing, and helps the athlete come back stronger & more motivated.
Throughout my competitive years, I’ve been poor at giving my body rest. In the past year I’ve been much better; having a day off a week pretty consistently, but in the past 5 years I can’t recall ever taking a real, extended break. I’m currently ‘off-season’ but have run a marathon and raced 3 cycling events. There hasn’t been structured training, but there has definitely not been time off. Looking ahead to 2019, I know the season will be challenging. I know it will take more discipline, more intensity, and more structure to get the results I desire for myself and to be able to properly support my teammates. While I’m excited for that challenge, it was seeming like an overly daunting task to take on a super charged training focus come December straight from where I was currently. My body needed a break. Rest. Real rest to be able to move forward. So I decided to take a week off from training, completely off (I took a couple walks) to focus on resting my body and coming back stronger.
7 Days of nothing.
Would I survive? Would I turn into an a coach potato? Would I gain 10 pounds?! Would my body remember what to do after a week? I had many doubts and concerns; some silly, but my biggest one was ‘will this be worth it’?
Tips for your rest week:
Get plenty of sleep! Sleep in, go to bed early, take a nap, etc… This is a great time to work on boosting sleep habits with a mask, earplugs, try a natural supplement like GoodDay Chocolate Melatonin or SWISSE Wellness Sleep Ultivite.
Focus on stretching & massaging. Use this time to take care of your muscles by stretching, doing some light yoga, getting a massage, try cupping or using a foam roller.
Take a hot bath. Do the things you might not prioritize during heavy training like taking a hot salt bath.
Remove yourself from all things training. There’s no need to be faced with the low amount of calories you’re burning or the lack of steps you’re taking from glancing down at your fitness tracking watch during this time. Listening to your favorite training podcast will likely leave you anxious and motivated to workout. Taking off from your trackers, data programs, fitness media accounts, training podcasts and fitness apps will help you unwind mentally.
Don’t stress the diet… too much. You’re burning less calories, yes, but if your period of rest is a week or less, don’t be too concerned. This is a great chance to eat more vegetables, lighter and leaner meals, but this is also a time of rest and that means resting from the stress of strict eating habits while training. So indulge a little.
Have some fun. What to do when you’re not spending hours working out, planning your training nutrition, tracking data, etc… Go be social! See a movie, host a dinner party, play mini-golf, read at a coffee shop, whatever.
Wear real clothes. Seriously, take this chance to put the yoga and track pants away. Put some jeans on, iron a shirt, wear non-athletic footwear.
On day 5 I started to feel a bit anxious and ready to be working out again. On day 8 I was thrilled to hit an easy workout and see that my body did not become one with the coach, it did remember how to run and bike, and that I didn’t gain 10 pounds (only 2). The best thing post workout was the excitement to be back at it and really dive into getting fit for the upcoming season.