Relearning the 3 ‘R’s: rest, renewal and return
Having mastered rest, couch potatoes can skip this column. What follows is written for the “rest-less” – those of us who neglect the body’s need for renewal. Unless we change our ways, our well-being will be sacrificed on the altar of approaching holiday festivities.
When it comes to operating, I have two gears – full speed ahead (vertical) or unconscious (horizontal). Rest to me is what sobriety is to alcoholics – something to be avoided. I associate rest with something forced on children against their will in the middle of the afternoon.
An inability to relax may be a female issue, although both my parents were hard workers. My employers encouraged workaholism.
As a single parent, I struggled to get all my family tasks done before falling asleep. As I aged, I increasingly had a sense of time running out; hence, a desire to cram as much as possible into each day.
Nothing I’ve read on fitness addresses the subject. According to the
American Council on Exercise, in a survey of 3,000 fitness professionals, the most common mistakes are related to the exercise itself – not warming up adequately before and after, or working out too intensely or not intensely enough. Inadequate water intake and eating unneeded high-calorie energy bars during short workouts were also noted.
“Not being rested before, or not resting after, exercise” wasn’t listed.
When we’re sick, common sense tells us the body heals better and faster with rest. Moreover, new parents don’t need researchers to tell them that sleep deprivation does strange things to us (makes us anxious, depressed and even elevates cholesterol levels).
Yet how many of us consider adequate rest an essential part of a
long-term fitness regimen?
According to Mike Carville, trainer at the South Yuba Club, “You must take rest and recovery as seriously as you take the exercise portion of your regimen. Your body and health do not improve while you are exercising. Indeed, the stress your body encounters while exercising weakens your body and immune system.
“The health improvements associated with exercise come only after you’re through exercising and only when you allow your body the proper amount of rest and nutrition. This is known as the ‘recovery phase’ of an exercise program. Not allowing adequate recovery time causes muscle breakdown and lowered performance in the future.
Injuries are also more likely. Ultimately, rest is as important as the exercise itself.”
Carville concludes with, “Trying to do too much in too short a time results in people abandoning their commitment. The best pace is a sustainable one.”
The psychological benefits are as important as the physiological. By retreating from an activity, we restore not just our muscles and immune system, but also our spirit.
A well-timed periodic retreat restores perspective. We return with fresh enthusiasm or shift priorities. Following the break,
unprogrammed and unexpected improvements in performance frequently occur.
I love tennis. If my game is off, it’s tempting to practice more when, in fact, the opposite is called for. How ironic that doing nothing, e.g.,
resting, will restore the very performance level that eludes continuous
The notion of “less is more” is counterintuitive. Moreover, the notion of rest as a disciplined activity – just as important as the exercise itself – also defies logic. Instead of resting only when I’ve run out of steam, I have to affirm its rightful place as part of my daily routine – and affirm it while I’m still horizontal!
Maybe I’m the person who needs to add “rest” to her daily “To Do” list. Or maybe I need to keep a “To Do – NOT” list to avoid over-commitment. Whatever the mechanism for making change, affirmative rest has a rightful place in every sustainable fitness regimen.
Carole Carson is a fitness and nutrition advocate from Nevada City. E-mail her at firstname.lastname@example.org or write her at The Union, 464 Sutton Way, Grass Valley, 95945.
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