Saturday, April 7, 2012

Love/hate ralationship with "rest days"

I've worked out non-stop for over a week now with no rest day. Not smart. I know this, but I don't follow my own advice out of an incessant need to exercise my body to its limits. Well, now I'm paying for it. I went out Thursday night after work and went for a six-mile run after doing 6 days non-stop of yoga, even though my body was craving rest. On a couple of days last week, I actually ran AND did yoga. My body was begging for rest. So much so, that my run sucked that night. I simply had no energy. My legs felt like lead. But we've all had days like that though right? Days where you're just not "feeling it." As athletes, we learn to ignore those kinds feelings and to push through it because we know that we will feel better on the other side of that workout.Those feelings are usually temporary and are quite often replaced with a huge high following the workout.

So after my run Thursday night, I just crashed. I fell into a deep coma-like sleep already feeling pain in my joints and muscles. So on Friday (Good Friday no less) I ended up having a forced rest day if you will, and on the first day of my vacation. Body was happy. Brain was not. My brain usually wins so I gave in to the body this time. Actually I had no choice. I've had this happen before, where I will go for days and days and sometimes weeks with no rest day and eventually my body just says: "That's it. We're done." Mentally and physically I was done. I couldn't have worked out even if you were paying me to do so. I simply had no energy to speak of. You'd think I'd know this by now right? Perhaps I was waiting for a sign that my body needed rest?

Every athlete knows that rest days are essential to good training; no less important than proper hydration and eating habits. However, I know I'm not the only athlete out there that struggles to take a break from training. There is this incessant desire to run, to feel the wind in my face and the adrenaline begin to flow, to push one's body just a little further. It's a drug all of it's own and when we don't get our drug, we often get cranky.

I practice Bikram yoga on the days when I am not running, as a way to cross train and because it provides such a thorough workout in only an hour and a half. The stretching alone does wonders for my running. For those familiar with Bikram yoga, you know it is an intense hour and half. It is definitely not a workout for the faint of heart (aka WIMPS). I've seen body builders nearly pass out from exhaustion halfway though the workout. There are twenty-six postures that make up the Bikram series and once we reach the floor series, we practice savasana (dead body pose) in between each posture. Each savasana lasts for about 30 seconds and one is supposed to lay there completely motionless as the sweat drip/rolls off your body. No scratching, wiping or moving allowed. Just REST. This rest allows one's body to return to normal breathing and for the blood flow to return to normal after the constricting poses. To quote Bikram Choudhury (founder of Bikram Yoga): "This asana is important because it allows tensed muscles to relax and blood to flow equally to all parts of the body." It's essentially a healing that is taking place. I'll admit that savasana is often one of the hardest poses to practice because one must be completely STILL. Being still is not always easy. Trust me, it looks easier than it is. It is welcoming at first but with the adrenaline that is flowing through one's body, it is only natural to want to get up and continue on with the strenuous activity of burning fat, stretching or what ever else you may be striving for. Simply put, the body needs rest. And I'll admit, I'm not good at it.

So, after pushing myself this last week and on my first day of spring break, I end up in bed because my body was screaming for rest. My body didn't give me much choice. I spent the next 24 hours in bed attempting to regain my strength. Tired muscles, arthritis flare-up and lack of hunger is what I ended up with.

Of course for the first couple of hours, I laid there complaining in my head about the workout I had planned and was now not going to do. I was going to hit up the yoga studio at 9 am,(something I never get to do in the AM because of work) and then later that afternoon I was going for a 5 or 6 mile run. 2 workouts in one day on my first day of vacation. I was psyched. WAS being the key word there. My body had a very different idea of how I was going to spend that first day of vacation. I proceeded to lay in bed for the next 24 hours nursing my aching joints and muscles and attempting to eat despite the fact that everything made me want to puke.

Twenty-four hours later, I feel much better. Not 100%, but better. Whatever was ailing me is slowly going away and I am beginning to feel a bit more "normal" (I know, I know, for the average person I am not normal because of my insane workout schedule but this is MY normal). So, I'm taking the rest of vacation day #2 to catch up on light housekeeping duties, grade tons of college papers and then quite possibly hit the yoga studio at 3 this afternoon. Have I learned my lesson? Probably not. It's my personality. I push everything to its limits. But, I certainly am going to pay more attention to the little signs my body gives me and not let my brain win this game every time.

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