Often, when I work with a new client, they want to dive right in and focus on everything we should be doing to get in shape. I see them ignore things like sleep, intentional self-care, and rest days. It’s all about the go-go-go mentality. My clients (especially my ladies) always assume the sweatier the workout, the better the results. The fewer calories, the quicker you’ll lose weight. When I intentionally slow sessions down, I always get resistance.
Hear me out: Have you ever gone on a trip where you dropped your workouts, ate what you want, drank, relaxed, overindulged, and yet somehow returned home to find you weigh less? That’s your body on rest!
The thing about health is that relaxation is just as important as things like exercise and “clean” eating:
+ When we exercise we break body tissues down, rest days allow the body to rebuild those tissues which is how we build muscle, improve endurance, and increase strength.
+ Exercise, especially high-intensity exercise, increases cortisol. In short, cortisol is our body’s hormonal response to stress. While we need cortisol to rise in times of stress (including exercise) it is important that our cortisol levels also come back down so that we don’t wind up with fatigued adrenals (which can lead to exhaustion, anxiety, weight gain, insomnia, and a slew of other issues).
+ Physical stressors (like exercise) and emotional stressors (like work stress) both cause cortisol to rise. It’s crucial to rest your body by taking days off from working out, taking a bath, or simply slowing down the type of movement you do like walking instead of running. Choose activities that will counteract emotional stressors like meditation, reading a book, or chatting with a good friend.
+ SLEEP! Mastering daytime relaxation is incredibly important, but don’t underestimate the rest you get at night. Inadequate sleep takes a considerable toll on the brain – in the short term causing lower cognitive function and longterm it can cause premature aging of the brain. To compound the issue, when you are lacking in sleep you aren’t able to handle stressors as well. This causes cortisol to spike even more (which can make sleep even more challenging). It’s a vicious cycle!
As it relates to getting results from fitness efforts: you can do the most intense workouts, eat the perfect diet, but if you do not slow down you will not see optimal results. Whether you want to get in shape or just be a happier person, you need to rest! And side note, slowing down makes life more enjoyable. We typically prioritize and schedule things that are important into our lives. Rest, self-care, and relaxation should be no different. Put it into your calendar and make it a non-negotiable.