Confession: I am the worst at resting. It’s not my forte. I know I am not the only one who is guilty of this as society prides us in doing all of the things. Well, until recently. We are starting to see a slight shift in not doing all of the things, all of the time, and it is a beautiful thing.
This past week I rested a bit more than usual, which consequently inspired this post.
Last Saturday, I woke up in a lot of pain: my neck felt like it had been glued to my trap. Mobility was severely limited and highly uncomfortable. Working out was out of the question. I ended up sitting on the beach for a couple of hours and was quite sedentary overall. Sunday morning we got out for a trail walk, but then stayed inside the remainder of the day as a storm rolled through. My neck was not feeling better as the weekend came to a close, but I was antsy to move. Come Monday morning, I did not hesitate to go to the gym: I focused on lower body exercises, trying to eliminate any upper body movement, overhead moves in particular.
Long story short, this week included more rest days (days sans a structured workout) than I would have liked. Now this is not the first time for unplanned rest days, but I am continually working to listen to my body, move/exercise intuitively, and accept rest… because it is a really good thing.
By Thursday – following two solid days of rest, albeit casual walking – my neck and trap had let up to the point where I didn’t feel like I had cement for muscles. Hallelujah!
My natural mentality is to think that a rest day means cleaning the house top to bottom, walking the dog, running all the errands, and wrestling with recipes in the kitchen while listening to an educational podcast.
Where and when did I, did we, get the idea that taking a break both physically and mentally was not satisfactory? For one, I am probably preaching to the choir, but we know that our muscles need rest in order to repair and therefore get stronger following physical exertion. Working out hard day after day will most likely not give you the results you want to see. I repeat, exercise is a form of stress on the body, and our bodies can’t recognize the difference of various stressors. It is all stress.
So mid-week, when my neck was still trapped (heh, pun!) and my GI tract was wonky, I surrendered — to the couch, to letting putting my feet up – literally – be enough. Nick was headed out a run, and while typically I’d join him, I knew that that wasn’t the kindest choice for my body. Not surprisingly, by giving my body downtime, it (my neck) is showing signs of healing. When you give your body the opportunity to heal, it will do just that.
As for the importance of rest days, I think, first and foremost, it is important to “take them”, and secondly, it is important to accept them. Our physical body undoubtedly needs them when we are constantly putting it in motion, but our mind needs equal, if not more, amounts of rest — to recharge and rejuvenate. Again, whatever the source(s) of your stress, your body will harness it all into one big clump where unwanted feelings and physical pain will manifest.
With the weekend upon us, I hope you give your body and mind the permission to pause in the ever-exhausting flow that is life. Welcome stillness, doses of downtime, and moments of mindfulness.
Let whatever you do today be enough.
How often do you take intentional rest days?
How do you feel about unplanned rest days?
What do your rest days look like?
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