Rest days are considered vital to recovery, strength, and endurance. It is not just the doing but not-doing that makes us stronger, healthier, and more successful athletes and human beings in general. The notion that we have to be “doing something” to get in shape, burn calories, increase muscle mass or develop our endurance is only partly true. When people don’t sleep, they go crazy because sleep is when the internal healing and growing within the body takes place. Our conscious body needs sleep so that the automatic, internal healing mechanisms can take place. Remind anyone of that quote, “Be still and know…” We cannot do it all and we cannot take credit for it all either. I love to use the example of breathing. Do you think about breathing? Do you remember to breathe while sleeping? Most people say, “No, of course not!” But we have the ability to pay attention to our breathing and somewhat control the depth and quickness of it when we want to. This is result of having two types of muscle tissue in the lungs: striated and unstriated. One set is automatic and out of our control (i.e. it keeps us breathing when we are too busy talking or working or watching TV), the other set is what allows us to take a deeper breathe, control our inhale/exhale in a yoga class or on a run, and even hold our breath when we go underwater. So if our lungs have a fail-safe then so does the rest of our body. If we don’t take our rest days – and sometimes we need more than one per week – our body will begin to break down via injury, illness, or simply exhaustion.
I usually don’t look forward to “Rest Days.” In fact, I’m usually forced to take days off because of injury or illness or exhaustion then beat up myself for being human and still healing. This week is one of few that was successfully traversed leaving a rest day before my long run & ride this weekend. While those hurdles are still to come, I have had huge successes this week. 1) Continued swimming endurance with decreased times and only some shoulder stiffness. 2) Finally able to RUN 5-10 minute repeats with NO knee/IT band/hamstring pain. Guess the strengthening, icing, foam rolling, and RESTING is finally paying off. Here’s to respecting, enjoying and looking forward to rest days!