I like to think of myself as a guinea pig. Being a nutrition counselor in the world of holistic health means that the majority of my personal and professional time is spent in area’s involving food, fitness, clean eating clean, balance, and alternative healing. With so much information, differing opinions, and limitless approaches to health, I like to take on the role of both scientist and specimen. I frequently experiment with various methodologies of eating and exercise, taking note of how my body reacts, the pro’s and con’s, and what general knowledge can be gained from changing the way I move and eat.
First and foremost, I 100% believe that everyone’s body type and nutritional needs are different. What works for one person will not necessarily work for another. So while I experiment in the name of science, exploration, and information, I am fully aware that what I discover may in fact be helpful only to me. But I do it anyway. There are certain discoveries and ‘inside’ information that prove interesting; even if it’s only applies to some people, some of the time.
One house I’ve never been comfortable visiting for an extended period is ‘rest’. I love my exercise and I do it faithfully. 7 days a week. Even though running, yoga, and spin class are my favorites, I enjoy trying new activities and mixing up my sweat sessions; I don’t, however, enjoy not doing anything. My husband always teases me for being the rare breed who not only LOVES exercise, but who gets sad and crabby when I can’t go the gym.
I work out to relieve stress, stay lean, calm my mind, inspire creativity, and invigorate my body. I also work out to look good naked. The jury’s still out on that one. :) For me, exercise isn’t about simply losing weight or preparing for an upcoming event (though both of those are extremely valid and motivating goals), it’s also about carving time out of my day that’s only for me. It’s about challenging myself, physically and mentally, and more importantly, it’s about consistently engaging in an active lifestyle.
With all that said—even though it goes against my nature—I decided to experiment with taking a day off from my usual routine. Yikes!
Here’s what I discovered:
- Increased Lean Muscle Definition: It’s true! MORE gym time equals LESS fitness. By resting one day a week, my muscles have a chance to recover, leaving me with noticeably increased lean muscle definition. Here’s some crazy news: Working out too much can actually pack on the pounds rather than shed them. Instead of keeping your body lean and healthy, too much intense activity actually has the opposite effect. Without a chance to recover, rest, and heal, muscle fibers gets stressed, triggering cortisol, directly leading to added belly fat and a buildup of muscle tissue.
- Better Performance: My endurance and performance have markedly improved, not only on the day following my day of rest, but the entire week as well. Just one day of recovery helps me push harder on days of activity.
- Mood Booster: Working out is usually my go-to stress reliever and endorphin fix. Ironically, taking one day to sleep more has proven to be just as effective. I thought I would be lethargic, but the extra rest and recovery actually enhances my overall mental and emotional state. I’m practically buoyant on my days off; not AT ALL a side effect I was expecting.
- Increased Energy: When I work out, I like to aim for intensity. I don’t mind feeling fatigued when I leave the gym; it’s kind of pleasant, really, and usually leads to me feeling energized for the rest of the day. But like the mood boosting benefits of taking a day off, recovery time has led to increased energy the whole week through.
- Mental Challenge: Of all the lessons learned from taking a day off, this was the most expected. I’ve been working out 7 days a week for so many years (we’re talking 10+ years) it’s been quite a difficult mental challenge for me to not work out. Even though it was highly uncomfortable for me, I stuck with it and it was a good challenge for me. Plus it’s been a good reminder for other areas of life that at first seem uncomfortable and challenging; sticking with it has brought great rewards even though my initial instinct was to fight it.
- Longing: With all the lessons learned, here’s the clincher = I miss working out every day. Even with the all the fantastic mind, body, and spirit benefits I discovered, I can’t wait to get my sweat on and sometimes I get giddy planning the next day’s activity. Weird? Perhaps. But that’s what excites me. :)