“Rest?? I don't want to lose fitness!!!”
Which voice rings true for you?
Well, I can appreciate both sides on this issue. Once we establish a training groove – and we're seeing results – it can be almost paradoxical to believe that rest will benefit us.
Do you train year-round? We believe by being consistent and faithfully putting in our time we will be rewarded with ever-improving fitness.
But is that how it really works?
I could send this post any number of directions, but I'm going to keep it 'big picture'.
Let's say you want to be a better athlete. You want to run longer distances. You want to lift more weight. You want to run faster. You want to be in better shape than last year, etc. Obviously, you will need to train consistently for this to happen.
In my personal and professional experience however, I have seen greater season-to-season improvement following a period of greatly reduced training or even, gasp, complete rest.
Someone once likened your body to a sponge. In order to soak up additional fitness gains, you need to lose a bit first.
The secret that many experienced athletes know is that you really don't lose much fitness when you take a month to recharge. There are so many different aspects of fitness – neuromuscular coordination, capillary density, aerobic ability, muscular strength and endurance, bone density, tendon/ligament integrity, etc. You'd have to completely shut down for MONTHS to lose the years of development you've accumulated.
What am I saying?
It's all in your head.
I'm saying that you have to get over your insecurities. Be confident that after 10 or 11 months of solid, consistent training, you deserve a recovery period. Don't let that OCD voice in your head tell you otherwise.
And yeah, I know. Sometimes rest is forced upon us. Work, travel, sickness, and injury can all significantly disrupt our training. Sometimes the timing is good and it's a blessing in disguise. Sometimes the timing sucks and we have to forfeit an important event. Either way the key is to listen to the body. You'll never regret it.
I want you to chew on this thought the next time you find yourself in the best shape of your life:
Take a little break and be confident that you're doing the right thing. I dare you!
PS: Rest doesn't mean veg-out couch time. It means experience different forms of movement. Try dancing. Try climbing. Cut the intensity. Cut the amount or volume of training. Think of this time period as a opportunity to address underlying issues like a poor movement pattern or focus on yoga. Is there something (or someone?) you neglected while you were busy training?
PPS: And yeah, I know my timing isn't good either. Everyone is ramping up their training after the holidays and this may not apply to you now that it's February. But hey, file it and keep this perspective in your 'toolbox'. :-)